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Longtime faculty member receives President’s Medal

Kristen B. Morales

January 24, 2019

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One of the two recipients of this year’s President’s Medal has a long history with the College of Education and, even in retirement, continues to give of her time and talents to the University of Georgia.

Sylvia Hutchinson, professor emerita of higher education, will receive this year’s honor alongside Brahm P. Verma, professor emeritus of engineering, during Founders Day Activities on Jan. 28. The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of Georgians.

Hutchinson has a long history with UGA and the College of Education. She started as an undergraduate student in 1960 and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education and a Ph.D. in reading education. After 15 years in Athens, with some time spent teaching in Dacula, she left to teach at Southwest Texas State University—but then returned to UGA as an assistant professor in 1978.

But it was one of her first teaching experiences in Athens that helped shape the educator that Hutchinson would become. As a student-teacher at Athens’s College Avenue School, she watched and learned from its principal, who was known for her methods of helping kids catch up when they fell behind in certain subjects.

One day, while standing with the principal as she greeted students coming in to the school, one girl questioned whether she had done well, or “made her pass.” “Every day you come to College Avenue School, you make your pass,” reassured Ms. Glenn, the principal.

The statement struck Hutchinson, and to this day she carries the sentiment with her on the UGA campus, to the many and varied roles she has filled over the decades.

Before her retirement in 2002, Hutchinson served as an associate dean of the College of Education and coordinated several faculty support and development programs across the university, including postdoctoral teaching and peer consulting. She was also a professor of higher education and a member of the Institute of Higher Education.

After retirement, she worked with Emeriti Scholars, volunteers who helped recipients of the Coca-Cola Foundation’s First Generation Scholarship program navigate the university system. She also served on a variety of UGA advisory boards, including UGA’s Graduate Development program, the Education and Law Consortium, the Athens Tutorial Program and Georgia Voyager magazine. She served as coordinator of the peer consultation team in the Center for Teaching and Learning and as a faculty liaison.

Today, Hutchinson keeps an office in the College’s department of language and literacy education and teaches classes—all with no compensation—in both the College and across the University. This semester, for example, she is teaching pre-med students about medical literacy, aiming to bridge the gap between the practitioner and the patient. She also serves as a faculty liaison for student veterans enrolled at UGA and continues to coach graduate students who are teaching assistants.

Still, the principal’s words continue to resonate.

"Every day I step foot on this campus has been a reward for me,” she said. “People say, ‘You teach without any compensation?’ But what I get for teaching is far beyond any compensation.”