MACON – College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Professor of Philosophy Dr. Charlotte Thomas was recently named this year’s recipient of the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award, presented annually at Mercer University’s Macon commencement.
The 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. Charlie Thomas became a devoted student of and preceptor for Joe Hendricks while an undergraduate at Mercer, and when hired to serve on Mercer’s faculty she became a colleague, protégé and friend to both Joe and Jean Hendricks. Since that time, she has embraced what she learned from the Hendrickses and passed along lessons of wisdom to a generation of students of her own,” said Dr. Anita Olson Gustafson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Thomas’ ability to challenge, inspire and deeply engage her students has kept the legacy of the Hendrickses alive at Mercer, and I can think of no one more deserving of the Joe and Jean Hendricks Excellence in Teaching Award than she.”
Dr. Thomas earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Mercer and her master’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy from Emory University. She joined Mercer’s faculty in 1994.
She recently published The Female Drama: The Philosophical Feminine in the Soul of Plato’s Republic through Mercer University Press. Her areas of specialization include ancient philosophy, moral philosophy, and philosophy of art and literature. She primarily teaches History of Philosophy, Ethics, and Great Books courses.
Last spring, concerned that her students were not gaining a true understanding of how to apply ethical reasoning to complex, real-world situations, Dr. Thomas introduced a service-learning component to the Introduction to Ethics course that she had been teaching for 25 years. The course, which now involves substantial collaboration with Macon’s Daybreak Center for people experiencing homelessness, is just one example of how Dr. Thomas continues to challenge and inspire students and colleagues through her teaching and mentorship.
Dr. Thomas also serves as co-director of Mercer’s Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles, director of the Philosophy and Art study abroad program, and a board member for the Association of Core Texts and Courses, a national organization for faculty and administrators in Great Books and other core programs. This fall, she will direct the University’s Great Books program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
She previously served as chair of Mercer’s Department of Philosophy and the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as director of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) concentration, First-Year Seminar Program, Experiential First-Year Seminar and Freshman Seminar Program. Additionally, she was an American Academy of Liberal Education accreditation evaluator.
Dr. Thomas has authored dozens of journal articles, book chapters, essay collections and presentations and served as a board and committee member, reviewer and volunteer for numerous scholarly and community organizations. She is also a member of Macon-based Americana band blueskyblue.
“My teachers at Mercer were giants. Joe Hendricks. Ted Nordenhaug. Tom Trimble. They were also my mentors when I joined the Mercer faculty. I cannot possibly convey how much their care for me as a student, a colleague and a person influences all the best parts of who I am today. I try every day to be a teacher worthy of their hopes for me. That’s the only way I know to thank them for the remarkable gifts they gave me – and never wanted thanks for,” said Dr. Thomas. “Winning this award – having my name listed next to Joe and Sister Jean’s – is the greatest honor of my career.”
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.