Dr. Will Jordan to receive Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award

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headshot of dr. will jordan
Dr. Will Jordan. Photo by Leah Yetter

MACON — College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Professor of Political Science Dr. Will Jordan is this year’s recipient of the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award, which will be presented at Mercer University’s Macon commencement on May 15. 

The annual Hendricks Award recognizes a full-time teacher who best exemplifies the qualities that distinguished Joe and Jean Hendricks as teachers and mentors to generations of Mercer students. These include challenging and inspiring teaching in and out of the classroom, active engagement of students in the process of learning, discovery and leadership, as well as caring mentoring to motivate students and junior faculty to achieve their highest aspirations. 

“Dr. Jordan is a deserving recipient of this award,” said Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His teaching moves beyond the admittedly important focus of the content of a particular course — he urges students to dive deeply into the meaning of their assigned readings to discover a writer’s intent and how it might impact their own lives. In a time when so many conversations become polarized and toxic, he urges students to move beyond the external noise to find the ways in which the text speaks to them and to critically look at its strengths and shortcomings.” 

Dr. Jordan has served on the faculty at Mercer since 2003, specializing in political theory and the politics and founding of America. He is co-director of Mercer’s Center for America’s Founding Principles and in that role organizes extracurricular faculty and student reading groups where participants deeply read and discuss a particular text and interact as equals. 

These reading groups “offer a rare opportunity for faculty and students to converse in a context outside the regular classroom and model for the students the importance of civic discourse in a democratic society,” Dr. Gustafson said. 

“My ideal teaching has always been to try to show students the wonder and complexity that can emerge when we really read carefully together,” Dr. Jordan said. “You never know when a book or idea can change the entire way you look at the world and even the direction of your life.  It is really gratifying to know that I have helped at least a few students have that experience over the years.” 

At Mercer, Dr. Jordan has been the recipient of the Spencer B. King Jr. Distinguished Professor Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Mercer chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success. He also has been named Mercer University Professor of the Month by the Student Government Association. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to spend my career at Mercer, surrounded by eager and enthusiastic students as well as colleagues who sincerely value teaching,” he said. “I was very surprised and flattered to even be nominated for this award.  When I see the names of my colleagues who have won this before, and to even be mentioned in the same breath as people like Joe and Jean Hendricks, it is humbling and overwhelming.” 

Dr. Jordan earned a Bachelor of Arts in politics and philosophy from Washington and Lee University. He earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in political science from Loyola University Chicago. 

“Dr Jordan taught me how to think critically while also having an open mind,” said senior Michael Hurst, who is double-majoring in philosophy and political science. “Like any excellent teacher of the liberal arts, he strives to teach us how to think rather than what to think. More importantly, he taught me that philosophy and political theory have a tremendous impact on our culture and the world around us, and we must figure out how to navigate these ideas, so we can champion the ones that will make us flourish and grow.” 

The Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award, which carries a $5,000 stipend, is named for two of Mercer’s greatest teachers, who are legendary at the University for their dedication to students and for their ability to engage students in transformative learning and discovery. 

Dr. Jean Hendricks, a 1942 graduate of Tift College, earned her Ph.D. from Florida State University, 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. Joseph Hendricks, a 1955 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, earned his Ph.D. from Emory University and taught for 32 years in the Freshman Seminar program, which he and his sister were instrumental in creating. 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. 

Meet the Finalists 

headshot of dr. lucy bush
Dr. Lucy Bush

Dr. Lucy Bush is an associate professor of education in the College of Education, where she also serves as assistant dean of Atlanta teacher education and educational leadership. She joined Mercer in 2009 after serving one year as an adjunct instructor.

Since that time, Dr. Bush pioneered a co-teaching model that has become a signature feature of the Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education program. The model allows students to engage in real-time, real-world learning experiences combined with theoretical and research-based pedagogy. She also serves as a supervisor for practicum students, in which she engages students in the process of learning, discovery and leadership.  

Prior to coming to Mercer, Dr. Bush taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels in public school systems in northeast Georgia. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, Bachelor of Science in Education in social science education, Master of Education in foreign language education, and Education Specialist in teaching additional languages from the University of Georgia. She also earned a Doctor of Education in curriculum studies, with an emphasis in multicultural education, and a Master of Education in instructional technology from Georgia Southern University.

headshot of dr. lynn clemons
Dr. Lynn Clemons

Dr. Lynn Clemons is a professor of organizational leadership in the College of Professional Advancement. As chair of the leadership studies department, she leads the undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leads and develops curriculum for Mercer’s non-degree workforce leadership development programs. 

Dr. Clemons has served Mercer for nearly 30 years, and in that time, she has been recognized as a Georgia Governor’s Teaching Fellow and recipient of the College of Professional Advancement’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Association for Continuing Higher Education South Region’s Distinguished Program Award.  

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Georgia, a Master of Arts in human resource management from Pepperdine University and a Doctor of Education from Nova Southeastern University. 

Suzianne Painter-Thorne is a professor and associate dean of strategic initiatives in the School of Law. She joined Mercer in 2006 after serving as a law clerk and staff attorney assisting Judge Harry Pregerson in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

During her career at Mercer Law, Painter-Thorne has taught core required courses, developed upper-level electives and facilitated courses in the legal writing certificate program. In each course, she uses a variety of instructional strategies to support student learning, balancing lectures with the Socratic method, which invites students to participate in a dialogue where they identify and explore legal issues and discuss differing perspectives and potential resolutions to those legal issues.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland, College Park, and law degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law. 

About Mercer University 

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit mercer.edu

Jennifer Falk is the director of digital communications at Mercer University and editor-in-chief of The Den. She creates and supervises the development of written and multimedia content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters, including The Den and This Week @ Mercer. In addition, she collaborates with schools and offices to maintain web content and examines data and analytics to drive content creation decisions. She also serves as a member of the University's social media committee.