Home » Inaugural Bingham Endowed Chairs for Teaching Excellence at Transylvania University selected

Inaugural Bingham Endowed Chairs for Teaching Excellence at Transylvania University selected

By Kevin O. Stinnett

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Three longtime Transylvania faculty members have been named as the inaugural Bingham Endowed Chairs for Teaching Excellence at the university. Professors Paul Duffin, Qian Gao and Frank Russell were selected following a rigorous application process by an independent selection committee of excellent teachers from Holy Cross, Pomona, Bowdoin, Colby, Middlebury and Davidson colleges, as well as DePauw University.

 Sixteen members of the Transylvania faculty applied in this first year of the new Bingham program, representing departments and programs from across the curriculum. Members of the selection committee were impressed by the evidence of outstanding teaching they discerned in the applications.

 “The quality of the 2023-24 candidates reflects something of which we have long been aware,” said selection committee chair Jonathan Berkey, the James B. Duke Professor of International Studies and History at Davidson College. “The enormous breadth of teaching talent within the Transylvania faculty is a testament to the success of the Bingham program in rewarding and encouraging a campus culture which values excellent pedagogy.”

 “This first group of Bingham Endowed Chairs stands out for its dedication, not only to Transylvania, but to the high standards of teaching excellence for which the university is known,” said Christopher Young, chair of the Bingham Fund board. “In a liberal arts college, exceptional teachers such as professors Duffin, Gao and Russell, with their teaching skills and enthusiasm, foster a love of learning in their students by creating an exciting classroom experience.”

 Announced in May 2023, these five-year Bingham Endowed Chairs will include base salary, benefits and an additional $25,000 annual award to recognize professors whose outstanding and innovative teaching demonstrates Transylvania’s commitment to the very best student educational experience.

“Support from the Bingham Fund enables Transylvania to attract and retain excellent educators,” said Transylvania President Brien Lewis. “At the core of the university’s mission is a dedication to teaching excellence through excellent educators who empower and inspire students to transform themselves and take ownership of their education through independent learning.”

 The Bingham Endowed Chair awards recognize excellent teachers who are not only scholars, but thinkers who connect class material, no matter the topic, to the lived experience of Transylvania students. They are forward thinking, adapting their courses to best respond to the needs of students at the current moment and for the world they are likely to inhabit when they leave the university.


 About the Bingham Endowed Chairs

Paul Duffin is an associate professor of biology and currently serves as the presiding faculty officer. He holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University and bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College. His areas of specialization include molecular microbiology, bacteriology, bacterial pathogenesis and bacterial genetics.

Qian Gao is a professor of Chinese language and culture. She holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from the University of Oregon and a bachelor’s degree from Northwest University. Her areas of research include modern and contemporary Chinese literature and film with a focus on history, memory and modernity; popular culture in contemporary China; cultural studies in the Chinese context; and Chinese language pedagogy.

Frank Russell is a professor of history and classics. He holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University. His areas of research include ancient history, especially military and political intelligence, counter-insurgency and frontier studies.

About the Bingham Fund for Excellence in Teaching at Transylvania

Since 1987, the Bingham Fund for Excellence in Teaching at Transylvania has invested nearly $30 million to develop, identify, promote and reward excellent classroom teaching. The fund has provided faculty awards and financial support to develop teaching initiatives, including summer liberal arts seminars attended by faculty from a broad cross section of national liberal arts institutions. It has also supported the creation of a digital learning program to provide encouragement and professional assistance to faculty in the use of digital technologies in classroom teaching, as well as ongoing faculty development and faculty and student research through the David and Betty Jones Faculty Development Fund.   

 In October 2023, with support from the Bingham Fund, Transylvania launched the Bingham Center for Teaching Excellence. The center focuses on faculty development and student success, building on a long history of supporting and rewarding excellent teaching at the university.