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Liberty News

Excellence in Teaching awards announced

April 6, 2012 : Liberty University News Service

Liberty University recently announced this year’s recipients of the Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching.

The awards, inaugurated last year, recognize faculty members in Liberty’s residential and online programs, undergraduate and graduate, who have promoted significant student learning evidenced by exceptional pedagogical skill, effective use of instructional technology and incorporation of creative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

“Liberty University is committed to providing the most useful and highest quality of education possible to our students,” said Provost Dr. Ron Godwin. “The awards are all about putting action behind our commitment words. We want to encourage teachers to excel, to get out of their comfort zone and to try new learning technologies, to employ new classroom techniques or online teaching techniques, to innovate and to learn and improve the quality of teaching.”

Recipients are selected by judging committees comprised of deans from seven discipline areas and are honored formally at Commencement.

Godwin said it was the vision of Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr., to train leaders in all discipline areas, realized through faculty impact on student faith, thought and character, a key motivating factor for the awards.

He said the awards are just one of many steps Liberty has taken to promote teaching excellence at Liberty. For more information, go to Liberty’s Center for Teaching Excellence webpage.


2011-2012 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching



1. Anita Knight, Counseling and Family Studies (Lynchburg, Va.)

Knight is an Assistant Professor for the Center of Counseling and Family Studies. She teaches Research Methods and Program Evaluation, Counseling Skills and Techniques, Practicum, Internship, and Premarital Counseling. She completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Knight devotes herself to mentoring students and helping them seek God’s direction as they discover their research interests and vision for becoming Christian Counselors who are Champions for Christ.  She is currently at work on a resource book for counselors working with students who struggle with test anxiety. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Brian, and their two energetic toy poodles, Brandon and Sandy.

2. Samuel Smith, Education (Lynchburg, Va.)

Smith is Associate Professor and Director of the School Administration Licensure Program at Liberty University. Prior to coming to Liberty, Smith served on the faculty of Mid-America Christian University and Belhaven University. He also taught in both public and private K-12 schools and was administrator of schools in Texas and Florida.




1. David Towles, English and Modern Languages (Gladstone, Va.)

Towles was born and raised in Weatherford, Texas, where he married Carolyn Richards, and later moved to Sacramento, Calif., so he could complete a master’s degree in Spanish.  In the summer of 1976, he heard Dr. Falwell say he was starting a new college and needed English teachers.  He had some graduate courses in English, so he applied to teach at Liberty Baptist College. Since then he has taught English, plus most of the Spanish courses offered by Liberty, while also assisting in the development of programs in Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and The Teaching of English as a Second Language — along with an on-the-field Spanish program in Guatemala.  He and his wife, Carolyn, have raised “three good men:” a bank vice president, a Navy officer and an English professor here at Liberty.

2. Stuart Schwartz, Communication Studies (Lynchburg, Va.)

Schwartz came to Liberty after a 25-year career as a senior executive with media and retail organizations. Companies where he headed marketing and operations include Lee Enterprises, which owned daily newspaper, broadcast and specialty publications, and apparel merchandiser Steve Madden. He was also head of business development for a 150-store retail music chain.  Schwartz has a Ph.D. in Communication, an M.A. in Corporate and Political Communication, and an MA from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  He specializes in direct and interactive marketing, and is also a regular contributor to American Thinker (, the popular conservative political website, and guest on conservative talk radio.

3. Don Alban, General Studies (Forest, Va.)

Donald H. Alban, Jr. (Ph.D., Regent University), a former newspaper reporter and, until recently, the longtime editorial manager of Power for Living magazine, is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and the Master Teacher/Subject Matter Expert for the freshman Speech Communication course at Liberty University. His publishing credits include numerous magazine and newspaper articles and scholarly writings in the area of religious communication. He is also the author of two textbooks published by Kendall/Hunt, “Created for Connection: Your Calling as a Communicator in Today’s World” and “Speech Communication: A Redemptive Introduction.” Don, his wife Vangie, and their four children live in Forest, Va.



1. Lucinda Spaulding, Education (Lynchburg, Va.)

Spaulding is an Assistant Professor and teaches education and research courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level in the School of Education at Liberty. Spaulding has a Ph.D. in Special Education and Educational Psychology, a M.Ed. in Special Education, and a B.S. in Elementary Education and has taught in general education, special education, and inclusion settings in Title 1 schools in New York and Virginia, and English as a second language in Japan. Spaulding and her husband reside in the Lynchburg area, are the proud parents of two little boys, and look forward to welcoming a baby girl into the family in August.


2. Deborah Pinkston, Counseling and Family Studies (Bentonville, Ark.)

Pinkston grew up on the mission field and then returned to the mission field as an adult, so serving others has always been a part of her life. She has a master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and a Ph.D. in Biblical Counseling.  “I love my work as a Counselor but I have say that teaching at Liberty University Online has been one of the most rewarding things God has allowed me to do.  Being a part of so many students’ training and preparation to serve God is awesome!”


3. Steven Guest, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (LaGrange, KY)

Guest and his wife, Joan, have been married for nearly 24 years and have two daughters, Esther, 22, and Hannah, 19. Guest has been affiliated with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) for 26 years and has served overseas in the United Arab Emirates as an electrical engineer and an Associate Pastor of the Evangelical Community Church of Abu Dhabi for a total of 10 years.  He has served as visiting faculty (OT) at the International Graduate School of Leadership (Manila, Philippines) and at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (Bangalore, India).  Guest's calling is to passionately teach the Scriptures (with an obvious bent toward the Old Testament) for the faith of God's elect, so that this knowledge will lead to godliness (cf. Titus 1:1-3) and will result to the praise of His glory.



1. Trilby Cox, Psychology (Paris, France)

Cox has worked as a Liberty University Online Adjunct Instructor and Course Designer in Psychology for over two years. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Mississippi College, a Southern Baptist college in Clinton, Miss. After taking a few years off, she attended UCLA where she received her master's degree in Clinical Psychology. She has either worked or taught in the area of psychology since 1998, with time off to start a family. She has participated in focused research and published studies in the areas of clinical child psychology (including measurement, depression, anxiety, and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]); and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She lives with her family in Paris, France, where she plans to continue teaching and serving at Liberty.

2. Jennifer Hollis, General Studies (Forest, Va.)

Hollis was born and raised in Massachusetts, the place she still calls “home”. “College brought me to beautiful Upstate New York where I lived for many years before moving to Lynchburg four years ago with my family,” she said. She is married to David Hollis (who also teaches for LUO) and is a proud mother of four sons, ranging in age from 1 to 7. She practiced as a licensed structural engineer for many years before a career shift to teaching mathematics. She is currently a math instructor and Instructional Mentor for LUO.

3. Mark Hensley, Religion (Green River, Wyo.)

Hensley has been married to his wife, Laura, since August 1981. The Lord has given them three sons. Mark has served as a Senior Pastor since 1988. After completing a Bachelor of Behavioral Science degree at Hardin-Simmons University in 1984, he earned a Master of Arts in Religious Education degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1987. In 2005, he completed a Doctoral Degree in Educational Ministry with an emphasis in leadership from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southwestern Seminary awarded Hensley the R. Othal Feather Award in Educational Evangelism in 2004. Selection for this award is made on the basis of a student’s excellent academic standing and evidence of proficiency for research in Educational Evangelism. Mark currently serves as Pastor at the Hilltop Baptist Church in Green River, Wyo., which he says is a “a vibrant growing congregation” in the middle of building a new 450-seat auditorium.

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