Dr. Kent Van De Graaff (2004)

Article from WSU Signpost - By Maria Villasenor (asst. news editor)
March 01, 2004

Zoology Professor Receives Prestigious Hinckley Award

Kent M. Van De Graaff has had a long relationship with Weber State University. After graduating in 1965 with his bachelor's degree in zoology, he returned 30 years later to teach in that same department.

"Most of all, I appreciate the opportunity to interact with the students," Van De Graaff said at Friday's Faculty Award Luncheon. "And I'm very fortunate that I enjoy what I do."

At the event, Van De Graaff received the John S. Hinckley Fellow Award. He said three weeks before the event he was given a personal notice of the award.

"I was surprised and honored," he said. "Dr. Millner came right into my office and told me about it, and I was very flattered."

The luncheon was held in honor of 85 professors serving five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years; seven retiring professors; and the recipients of the Exemplary Collaboration Award and the Hinckley Award.

"We step back and we honor the individuals in the community who make this place such a wonderful place, and for the dedication and the commitment of our faculty and what you do for our students,"

WSU President F. Ann Millner said welcoming guests and faculty.

Last year, Van De Graaff won the Crystal Crest Master Teacher Award.

"That was most pleasing because it was symbolic of what your students think of you," he said, "and I'm comfortable teaching students and very anxious for them to achieve to their potential."

In addition to his teaching, students are benefited by Van De Graaff's role as premedical advisor.

"I feel that I can help them out," Van De Graaff said. "I have three sons who are physicians, so I've seen firsthand what is entailed in that and what they go through."

Van De Graaff earned his master's degree at the University of Utah in anatomy and said he remembers taking classes with many medical students.

Knowing the subject well, Van De Graaff wrote an anatomy textbook used on campus and has written more than 20 textbooks, manuals and atlases.

He is working on a new edition of the human anatomy textbook, and another lab manual on botany, during his sabbatical leave this semester. Van De Graaff is also finishing a histology textbook he is co-authoring with a faculty member from Northwestern University. Histology is the microscopic study of tissue.

"The co-author, Dr. Tessler, is the one who will be providing many of the images," Van De Graaff said. "He really is a world-renowned histologist, so it's a pleasure to work with him."

Although on sabbatical leave this semester, Van De Graaff continues to see students at WSU.

"They need good guidance; they need opportunities; they need to have motivation; they need to mature professionally; and I feel that I can aid in all those aspects," Van De Graaff said.

He met Thursday with Kurtis Ellis, a WSU premed student. Ellis said he felt he was given a lot of help and confidence from Van De Graaff within the three years he has met with him. Ellis also mentioned hearing an admissions officer at the University of Utah say Van De Graaff was the best premedical advisor in the state.

"A letter of recommendation from him goes a long way because of his reputation, both at the University of Utah and other schools," Ellis said. "He always tells you that he's your advocate. He wants you to get into school, and he will do his best to write a good letter, an honest letter, to help you with that."

The opinions of another student Van De Graaff helped were heard during the luncheon. While introducing Van De Graaff, Millner read what a student had said of him:

"His teaching does what teaching is supposed to do; it makes students love to learn."

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Kent M. Van De Graaff advises Kurtis Ellis on his future career in medicine. Van De Graaff received the John S. Hinckley Fellow Award Friday afternoon. PHOTO BY MARIA VILLASENOR