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NSFA Professor Receives Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award

Three engineers and a biochemist are the recipients of the top annual faculty awards at the University of Maine, which will be presented May 4 as part of the Academic Recognition Convocation.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Joseph Genco is the 2012 Distinguished Maine Professor, an award presented by the University of Maine Alumni Association to recognize outstanding achievement in UMaine’s tripartite mission of teaching, research and public service.

Professor of Biochemistry Mary Rumpho is this year’s Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award recipient. The 2012 Presidential Research and Creative Achievement Award recipient is Professor of Chemical Engineering Hemant Pendse. Karen Horton, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology, is the recipient of the Presidential Public Service Achievement Award.

Mary Rumpho, 2012 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award

Students and colleagues alike recognize Mary Rumpho as an outstanding teacher and mentor, and effective communicator and organizer. Her great strengths include her knowledge and enthusiasm of the subject matter, her service to the students, and her flexibility and commitment to continual development as a teacher. Rumpho has influenced and shaped the lives of many students, both in the laboratory and the classroom. She is a demanding professor who expects the best from her students and they, in turn, strive to meet her expectations. And she teaches an array of biochemistry classes, from introductory courses for nonmajors to upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes. The size of these classes ranges from 200 students to an intimate graduate seminar with five students.

Many of Rumpho’s students have commented on her ability to transform complex principles of biochemistry and make them comprehensible. Rumpho easily develops an excellent rapport with her students and because they find her so approachable, they are more willing to ask questions. Rumpho teaches with a remarkable command of the subject matter and honest enthusiasm for the topic. Across the board, students comment on Rumpho’s energy and passion for teaching. One student writes that, “I have taken three module courses with Rumpho and I have found her enthusiasm to be contagious. Not only do I feel more excited and knowledgeable about the material covered in these modules, there is an obvious increase in enthusiasm throughout the classroom.”

Rumpho also is very active in teaching service and outreach. Her research efforts focus on the uptake of algal chloroplasts by a sea slug, resulting in an animal capable of carrying out photosynthesis. She has adapted this system for educational purposes and has established collaborations with numerous schools to provide sea slugs to be used in education.

Rumpho’s teaching efforts also include student advising, which requires dedication, organization, clarity and, oftentimes, patience. She is an exceptionally caring person who unerringly makes an extra effort to help and to find resources for students. Whether it is a personal/family issue or an athlete struggling with juggling classes and maintaining grades, Rumpho is supportive, helpful and highly effective.


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