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After 25 years, New Kensington faculty not ready for the rocking chair

8/30/2011 —



Although they received rocking chairs as gifts, four faculty members at Penn State New Kensington won’t be using them anytime soon. Javier Gomez-Calderon, Joan Kowalski, Lois Rubin and Kwang-Shang Wang were honored Aug. 18 for 25 years of service to Penn State.

Gomez-Calderon, professor of mathematics, joined the New Kensington mathematics department in 1986, after seven years as a graduate associate and teaching assistant at the University of Arizona, where he earned his master's and doctorate degrees in mathematics. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, he was given the Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2007. The University-wide award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty members. Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956.

"I am lucky because I have been living my dream of teaching mathematics for more than two-thirds of my life," said Gomez-Calderon, whose wife, Maria Franco-De Gomez, is an instructor in Spanish at the campus. "I am not an outstanding teacher, nor am I an important mathematician. I simply enjoy doing my job."

Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering, earned a position with the campus faculty in 1987. A Penn State alumna, she earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering at the University Park campus. She is the co-founder the Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology and Engineering (FIRSTE) Program in 1993 and advisor to the campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). A recipient of the campus' "Excellence in Teaching" award, Kowalski has presented papers at various professional conferences.

Rubin, associate professor of English, has taught composition and women's literature courses at the campus since 1985. She holds a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon University, and her research explores the creative development and conflicting identities of characters in the novels of women writers, in particular Jewish women writers. She edited and contributed two essays to a book on Jewish-American female writers, "Connections and Collisions: Identities in Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Writing." Rubin arranges for guest speakers for "Holocaust, in Remembrance," an annual program that educates students about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

"I continue to do the program because I think we still need to be mindful of the terrible consequences of hatred and prejudice," said Rubin, a native of Pittsburgh. "Time is passing, and members of the World War II generation are aging. In a few years, the survivors of the Holocaust will not be around to tell us their stories in person."

Wang, assistant professor of mathematics, is a native of Taipei, Taiwan. He joined the campus faculty in 1985 after earning his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Arizona. Among his literary accomplishments is a book in Chinese that was published in Beijing.

The quartet’s silver anniversaries were celebrated during the annual Faculty Orientation program that is held the week before the start of the fall semester.

For more information on the honored faculty, read these bios from the award presentation (pdf).

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