3 finalists named from School of Law, College of Professional Advancement and Georgia Baptist College of Nursing

Dr. Kedrick Hartfield, a professor of mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award. 

The Hendricks Award recognizes a full-time teacher in one of Mercer University‘s 12 schools and colleges who best exemplifies the qualities that distinguished siblings Joe and Jean Hendricks as teachers and mentors to generations of Mercer students, such as: 

  • Challenging and inspiring teaching in and out of the classroom 
  • Actively engaging students in the process of learning, discovery and leadership
  • Caring mentoring to motivate students to achieve their highest aspirations and to support junior faculty in becoming exemplary teachers. 

“I was pleasantly surprised and very humbled to win the prestigious Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award,” said Dr. Hartfield, who is celebrating his 40th year of teaching at Mercer. He is the longest-serving Black professor at the University and the longest-serving full-time faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Award finalists were James Fleissner from the School of Law, Dr. Melanie Pavich from the College of Professional Advancement and Dr. Patricia Troyan from the Georgia Baptist School of Nursing

Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, nominated Dr. Hartfield for the award with support from his colleagues. In her nomination letter, she outlined how Dr. Hartfield demonstrated the qualities of the Hendrickses. 

“In the classroom, Dr. Hartfield is legendary. He speaks with authority, has a reputation for rigor and demands that his students invest the time and effort to demonstrate mastery,” she wrote.  

He quickly learns the names of each student and is generous with his office hours. He commits himself to helping students who are struggling or need other encouragement or support, she continued. 

Dr. Gustafson wrote that minority students often reach out to Dr. Hartfield as an essential resource, and he frequently participates in faculty-student mentoring sessions. Other faculty turn to him for advice about connecting with struggling students. And he readily offers advice and feedback to junior faculty. 

In addition, Dr. Hartfield teaches in the Upward Bound program, which helps prepare high school students from low-income families for college. His mentoring led a former Upward Bound student to now work alongside him as faculty in the Department of Mathematics.  

That former student, Dr. Keith Howard, told Dr. Gustafson that Dr. Hartfield “was the first person to ever suggest a career in mathematics was not only possible but was likely my calling.” 

Growing up in Augusta, Dr. Hartfield became interested in mathematics at a young age. In 1979, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Augusta College (now known as Augusta University), where he majored in mathematics and minored in biology. 

He entered the job market as the country was coming out of a recession, and unable to find a decent job, he returned to school at the University of Georgia. He graduated with his master’s degree in mathematics in 1981 and that same year took a job as a visiting instructor at Mercer. In 2002, he earned his doctorate in mathematics from the University of Georgia. 

Dr. Hartfield served on faculty with the Hendricks siblings for many years. Although he did not know Dr. Jean Hendricks well, he said Dr. Joe Hendricks “was a kind and decent man who welcomed me to Mercer University with an open mind and heart beginning with our very first meeting.” 

The Hendrickses are considered two of Mercer’s greatest teachers. They were instrumental in creating the Freshman Seminar program, which Dr. Joe Hendricks taught for 32 years. He also founded the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and taught for years in the Department of Religion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Jean Hendricks served as chair of the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and was the beloved dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in Atlanta. 

Dr. Hartfield said he’s blessed to have friends, colleagues and students who thought him worthy of the Hendricks Award. 

The award, presented annually at the Macon commencement, comes with a $5,000 stipend. 

Meet the finalists 

James Fleissner

James Fleissner, a professor of law, began teaching at the University in 1994. He is a 15-time recipient of the Reynold J. Kosek Jr. Excellence in Teaching Award, which is awarded annually by the senior class.  

Prior to joining Mercer, he served from 1986-1994 as assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, a position he reprised from 2003-2005 during a leave of absence from the University. Following that service, he was appointed special assistant U.S. attorney, which allowed him to continue government service after returning to the law school. 

Fleissner is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where he earned his Juris Doctor Degree. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University. 

“I was very honored to be considered for an award named for two beloved and esteemed Mercer legends,” he said. “I try to make a positive difference in the lives of my students. The hope is that those students will make a positive difference in the lives of others, setting off a chain reaction of good effects.”

Dr. Melanie Pavich

Dr. Melanie Pavich serves as associate professor of history and interdisciplinary studies and writing coordinator in the College of Professional Advancement. 

Her research is focused on race and gender in the South during the 19th and early 20th century, and her teaching includes courses centered on a service-learning project in which students research Gullah-Geechee history in coastal Georgia and create digital stories. For the project, students interview elders from African American communities, allowing them to engage in primary research and serve communities whose stories might otherwise be untold and lost. 

Dr. Pavich earned her Ph.D. in social foundations of education from the University of Georgia. Both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees are in history, from Clemson University and Agnes Scott College, respectively. She first taught as an adjunct professor at Mercer between 1996 and 2000, returning in 2008.

“I am deeply honored by being named a finalist for the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award,” she said. “My hope is that the work and learning students do in my courses will help them to meet the challenges they face and inspire them to work, even in small ways, to change our world for the better.” 

Dr. Patricia Troyan

Dr. Patricia Troyan is an associate professor in the Georgia Baptist College of Nursing, joining the faculty in 2004. Since then, she’s twice received the college’s Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award. 

She has 28 years of experience teaching in nursing education, with 18 years of clinical and administrative experience in nursing practice as a registered nurse and advanced practice nurse. Prior to coming to Mercer, she taught at several colleges in New York and served as a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves Nurse Corps.  

Dr. Troyan earned her Doctor of Education in adult and higher education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned her master’s in community health nursing from the University of Rochester, her bachelor’s in nursing from Syracuse University and her associate of applied science in nursing from Cayuga Community College. She also holds a post-master’s nurse midwifery certificate from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. She is a certified nurse educator and certified nurse midwife. 

“It was an amazing and heartfelt honor to be nominated for the prestigious Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award. To be chosen as a finalist for this notable award was one of the greatest highlights of my career,” she said. “Teaching my wonderful students and my love and passion for the nursing profession serve as my ongoing sources of inspiration. As I always tell my students: I learn from them just as they learn from me. Teaching is truly a privilege and an honor.” 


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