Indiana State University Newsroom

Four receive Caleb Mills Teaching Award

April 28, 2011

Indiana State University honored four educators with the Caleb Mills Distinguished Teaching Award Thursday (April 28) during the university's annual Faculty Recognition Banquet.

Named for a 19th century educator who helped to shape Indiana's public education system and served as the state's second superintendent of public instruction, the Mills Award recognizes Indiana State's most distinguished teachers.

Liz Brown, associate professor of mathematics, joined the department of mathematics and computer science in 2000. She advises mathematics education students and teaches a wide variety of mathematics and mathematics education courses. She is co-director of the Center for Mathematics Education and much of her research centers around community engagement activities connected to mathematics teaching and learning that are sponsored by the Center.

"It is extremely gratifying to me to be recognized by my ISU colleagues for my commitment to and accomplishments in teaching," she said. "I thoroughly enjoy helping people learn mathematics and helping people become mathematics teachers. I value my interactions with my students and I appreciate how much I have learned about teaching from them."

Al Finch, professor of physical education, has been an ISU faculty member since 1980. His teaching model places a strong emphasis on experiential learning and he has lead the development of exercise science, physiology and biomechanics laboratories in the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, which are used extensively in teaching, student and faculty research and community service.

Those facilities allow him to demonstrate just about any scientific concept or principle using real-time multimedia that help make the science applications come alive so his students' can answer the "what if" questions in scientific inquiry. Finch was recognized for his strong commitment to developmental career advisement of students by mentoring and encouraging them to pursue the highest degree they can obtain. More than 55 of his students have completed master's theses and a similar number have conducted independent research projects examining human movement. More than a dozen of Finch's students have completed doctorates and the exercise students he had advised have garnered 48 acceptances to professional schools in allied health. Finch has been included three times since 2003 in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers."

"I am extremely honored to receive this award because of the caliber of the past recipients who represent the very fabric of the ISU academic program through the years," Finch said. "This is very special and dear to me because it reflects how my students and colleagues have perceived my role during the past three decades in providing top-notch real-world learning experience opportunities that have prepared our students for successful professional careers."

Nancy Nichols-Pethick, associate professor of art, joined the ISU art department in 2004, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in painting and drawing. She serves as graduate coordinator for the department and teaches the graduate teaching seminar. Along with her colleague, Brad Venable, she initiated the Gilbert Wilson Memorial Mural Project, which gave students the opportunity to work collaboratively with nationally prominent public artists to create murals at the Boys and Girls Club of Terre Haute and the Booker T. Washington Community Center. In her capacity as art liaison to Hulman Memorial Student Union, Nichols-Pethick has assisted in the coordination of student exhibitions and the acquisition and siting of student art, as well as overseeing the student-led mural project, "One Tree...Many Roots."

"I am honored and humbled to be found worthy of the Caleb Mills Distinguished Teaching Award," Nichols-Pethic said. "It is a privilege and a pleasure to work alongside my students every day - sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding - to become a better teacher and a better artist. But I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge my first and best teachers: my mother and father. Everything I practice in the classroom I learned from them: to be kind, to know the value of a good question well asked, and to pay close and serious attention to the world."

Don Rogers, associate professor of recreation and sport management, joined the ISU faculty in 1997. His main teaching and research area is recreation and leisure behavior; focusing on recreation therapy, inclusion, facility design and outdoor programming. He has an international reputation for creating opportunities in outdoor adventure programming for people with disabilities. Rogers teaches courses in the major that range from management to diversity. His favorite course in the core is the introduction to the major. Seeing students' reactions when they hear important ideas in their major for the first time is fun and the discussions about their own use of recreation and leisure and thinking about those experiences in new, important ways is very exciting, he said. He also teaches all of the recreation therapy courses, which is one of his true loves.

Having been on the receiving and delivery ends of recreation and sport for a person with a disability for more than 30 years, he said he can relate the context, benefits and methods to students in ways that engage them and assure them that a career in recreation therapy will be as rewarding for them as those they serve.

"Being recognized by my peers and supported by my students to receive this award is a special honor and accomplishment for me," Rogers said. "I have always believed that ISU has a wealth of excellent teachers and I have aspired to be one of them, but I was not confident that I would rise to the level of a Caleb Mills recipient. It is especially pleasing to be rewarded when not expecting it and to learn before the journey has ended that I am on the right path. I would like to thank all of my ISU colleagues and students who make this a great institution and a gratifying place to build a career."

Photos: - Liz Brown - Al Finch - Nancy Nichols-Pethick - Don Rogers

Media contact: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or


Story Highlights

Liz Brown, associate professor of math education; Al Finch, professor of physical education; Nancy Nichols-Pethick, associate professor of art; and Don Rogers, assoiciate professor of recreation and sport management, were honored.

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