Debra Feakes, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State University, has been named Piper Professor for 2016 by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.
Feakes was named Piper Professor on May 2 in honor of her dedication and service to teaching at the collegiate level. Piper Foundation honorees are chosen by committee members who look for well-rounded, outgoing teachers, devoted to their profession and have made a special impact on their students and the community.
“I love working with the students and helping them with the learning process,” Feakes said. “Because I’m in chemistry, many of them come in with the idea they won’t be able to understand the material. It’s great to see them develop their skills and succeed in the course. My passion is working with freshmen. They come into the university with their entire career ahead of them and it’s wonderful to have such a big impact on helping them achieve their goals.”
“I actually had no interest in teaching in academia until I went to graduate school. There, I was required to be an instructional assistant, and I just loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed working with students and helping them understanding the material,” she said. “Some people have always wanted to be teachers, and I wasn’t like that. I didn’t even want to go to graduate school until I had a faculty member encourage me to consider that option. That one professor made a difference in my life, and I hope I do that as well.”
A member of the Texas State faculty since 1994, Feakes began as an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and has since held the titles of associate professor, professor and Presidential Fellow (2014-2015). She has served as the associate chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry since 2012, and has served on the Women in Science (WISE) scholarship committee since 2009. She was formerly the faculty sponsor for the Alpha Chi National Honor Scholarship Society and the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates group.
“I work very closely with the Student Learning Assistance Center. I enjoy developing support systems to help students succeed,” Feakes said. “We’ve been able to expand the supplemental instruction program throughout the first two years of chemistry classes, and expand into biology and math as well. Our goal is to provide support to develop study methods for the students in the difficult, or barrier, courses and helping them succeed in that course as well as subsequent courses.”
Feakes adds her Piper Professor designation to a list of prestigious accolades including distinguished membership status in the National Society of College Scholars (2014), Non-traditional Students Organization Professor of the Year (2012, 2005), Den Namesake (2009), Texas State University Nominee for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education Professor of the Year Award (2007), Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching (2006), Office of Disability Services Award (2002) and Friend of Student Learning Assistance Center Award (1999).
"I am deeply humbled to be named a Piper Professor for 2016," Feakes said. "The previous Piper Professors are the people who inspire me, and who I look up to."
Feakes is the 22nd overall Texas State professor to be named a Piper Professor. Other Texas State Piper Professors have been Emmie Craddock, 1962, history; Robert Galvan, 1968, modern languages; Thomas Brasher, 1970, English; Dan Farlow, 1975, political science; Clarence Schultz, 1976, sociology; Henrietta Avent, 1979, health and physical education; Robert Walts, 1982, English; Beverly Chiodo, 1988, computer information systems and administrative sciences; Barbara Hatcher, 1993, curriculum and instruction; Michael John Hennessy, 2001, English; Nancy Fehl Chavkin, 2002, social work; Paul Nathan Cohen, 2003, English; James David Bell, 2004, business; Byron Dale Augustin, 2005, geography; Christopher Frost, 2006, psychology; James Housefield, 2007, art history; Brock Brown, 2008, geography; Max Warshauer, 2010, mathematics; Steven Furney, 2012, health and human performance; Kenneth Margerison, 2013, history; and Vedaraman Sriraman, 2015, engineering technology.