Betty Ellzey, professor of English and chair of the department of English and modern languages, has been named as a finalist for the West Virginia Humanities Council’s 2013 Faculty Merit Foundation Professor of the Year Award.
Ellzey says she was notified of her nomination in late October and was contacted last month regarding her selection as a finalist. “I am very excited and honored,” she said. “It did come as a surprise.”
Shortly after receiving her PhD in Old and Middle English and Literature, Ellzey arrived at Shepherd University to teach, specializing in medieval literature. She has taught courses focusing on Shakespeare, Chaucer, Medieval drama, the Arthurian legend and recently a class entitled “Holy Whores,” highlighting a number of literary works and films, including Hrosvitha’s Mary Magdalene plays.
Vicky Faith, a senior English student, switched her major from art after having Ellzey for English 102. The course required students to write about literature but also included opportunities to analyze and write about examples of visual art that each student found interesting. “Writing about something I was familiar with [art] was fantastic and convinced me that I was a good writer. To have a professor who can do that is incredibly valuable.” Faith went on to say she is “very lucky to have been able to work” with Ellzey and has selected her as her capstone mentor.
Upon meeting Ellzey, Dow Benedict, dean of the school of arts and humanities “was aware that she was a great teacher.” Benedict recalls meeting with former English Department Chair Charles Carter and encouraging Ellzey to take her knowledge of Medieval and Renaissance drama demonstrated in her classes and create a new platform for students. Shortly thereafter, The Rude Mechanicals Medieval and Renaissance Players was born, a group Ellzey has remained coordinator of since its inception.
Benedict pointed out that the Rude Mechanicals are known not just in the Shepherd community. Under Ellzey’s direction, they have performed throughout the United States and abroad. Benedict noted that he spoke with a gentleman in England who directed the Chester Medieval Festival who was familiar with the Rude Mechanicals. “Upon hearing I was from Shepherd University, he said he had seen a performance by our Rude Mechanicals in Europe and how impressed he was.”
Harley Smith, an English major and president of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, believes it is “wonderful that Dr. Ellzey has been selected for this honor. It’s great to see her being recognized for all that she does. Shepherd is lucky to have her.”
Hannah Williams, a 2011 graduate of Shepherd and current student in the Masters of Arts in Literature program at American University, always found Ellzey’s feedback to be “so sharp, honest, fair and helpful. As her student, she made me want to continually improve.”
There are five finalists for the award and the winner will be announced in March. Not only will the winner receive a $10,000 cash prize, but their academic and professional achievements will be shared throughout the state.
Several current and former Shepherd faculty members have won the prize including English Professor Sylvia Shurbutt, Environmental Studies Professor Ed Snyder, and former Associate English Professor Linda Tate.