Three retiring members of the Erskine community were honored and several others were recognized April 29 at the seventh annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Banquet.
Two faculty members, Erskine College Professor of Biology Dr. Mary Lang Edwards and Erskine Seminary Associate Professor of Christian Education Dr. Jerdone Davis, as well as one staff member, Head Men’s Tennis Coach H. Vardon Cox, are retiring this year.
Acting President Dr. Brad Christie presented the retirement awards.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Greg Haselden spoke about Vardon Cox, a 1964 graduate of Erskine College, reading a long and humorous list of job titles Cox has held at Erskine in addition to his 45 years as Men’s Tennis coach. Haselden also noted that Cox has served as a mentor to team members through the years, giving special praise for all that Cox and his wife Merry have done for the 2013-14 team. The longtime coach recently celebrated his 500th career victory.
Joking about one of Cox’s major roles away from the tennis courts, Christie recalled that when he visited the bookstore, where Cox served for many years as manager, he would tell the coach, “I’ve always wanted to be a bookstore manager,” to which Cox would reply, “I’ve always wanted to be an English professor.”
Edwards came to Erskine in 1989. In addition to her well-respected work in the classroom and lab, she has led students, faculty, staff members, and alumni on numerous trips in the United States and abroad to study ecosystems and natural habitats, most recently teaching a Winter Term course in the Florida Keys.
Christie paid tribute to Edwards’ sense of adventure, presenting a list provided by her colleagues of real-world signs or instructions—warnings of high voltage, infestation by predators, and other dangers—and how such signs had been interpreted by the intrepid professor. For example, “No Trespassing,” might mean, “Welcome,” and “Practice tent set-up prior to actual use” might be met with the response, “Oh, how hard could it be? I’m sure I can handle it just fine during a full-on downpour in the rain forest at night.” Edwards said she could not deny the instances cited in which she discounted dangers or failed to heed essential instructions, “since there were witnesses.”
A long-distance runner for a number of years, Edwards recounted one occasion when she was thwarted in her desire to break away from a tour group and take a short run in the Serengeti. A determined guide refused her request, assuring her that hungry lions were waiting for her to leave the safety of the group.
Davis began her career as a nurse, earning the A.D.S.N. degree from Kennesaw State College in 1972. She returned to school to earn a Master of Arts in Educational Ministry from Erskine Theological Seminary in 1997, a Th.B. degree from Trinity College in 2000, and the Ed.D. degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2003.
In addition to her teaching duties, Davis has served the seminary as director of Professional Assessment and also directed the Master of Arts in Educational Ministries Program.
Christie noted that Davis planned to return to the nursing field as an educator upon her retirement from the seminary. She is teaching advanced nursing courses at Greenville Tech and also in Spartanburg, and according to seminary colleague Dr. Robert Bell, “is loving it.”
The Ruble Award for “Staff Member of the Year” was established by President Emeritus Dr. Randall T. Ruble. This year’s award was presented to Associate Director of Information Technology Michael Armstrong, a 1999 graduate of Erskine College.
Professor of Pastoral Care & Counseling Dr. Robert W. Bell, a 1976 graduate of Erskine College and a 1982 graduate of Erskine Seminary, was honored for 20 years of service to Erskine Theological Seminary.
Among the college faculty, Associate Professor of Mathematics Dr. Art Gorka was recognized for 10 years of service. Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Greg Haselden was also recognized for 10 years of service, as was Financial Aid Counselor Amanda Richey.
Two seminary faculty members, John L. Leith Professor of Reformed Theology and Worship Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old and John R. de Witt Professor of Systematic Theology Dr. Mark Ross were each honored for 10 years of service.