SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — Southwest Texas State University faculty member Michael John Hennessy, professor of English and director of lower-division studies in English, has received a 2001 Piper Professor Award from the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. Hennessy and nine other professors from around the state were named Piper Professors on May 1 in honor of their dedication and service to teaching at the collegiate level.
Hennessy oversees the English Department’s freshman and sophomore programs, which enroll some 4,500 students annually. He trains and supervises more than 30 graduate assistants and serves on five or more master’s thesis committees. His students have consistently praised Hennessy for his care in working with them and his ability to bring books to life.
One student writes of Hennessy’s personality, “He also came across as being a human being with a sense of humor, easy to talk to and ready to help, rather than being aloof and beyond approach by his students, which can be so crucial for freshmen who are still insecure about college.”
According to Piper Foundation material, committee members choose professors who are well-rounded, outgoing teachers, devoted to their profession and have made a special impact on their students and the community. In his nomination letter, Hennessy writes,
“First, I teach because I love my discipline. I am moved by the beauty and power of the English language and by the great literature that humankind has produced over the centuries . . . Second, I teach to help students discover who they are and what they can become.”
Hennessy’s list of accolades, accomplishments and community activities is lengthy. He is an Arthur Schmidt Fellow, has received two Merrick grants for curricular development, was twice-elected chair of the Texas Association of Directors of Writing Programs, and is an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English and the Council of College Teachers of English of Texas.
As a scholar, Hennessy is currently writing a textbook and researching the poetry of W.H. Auden. He co-edits a collection of articles on teaching basic skills and wrote a manual for the Texas Education Agency.
In the community, Hennessy is a volunteer with the San Marcos Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a member of the City of San Marcos Bond Oversight Committee, a volunteer of religious education for third, fourth and fifth graders, on the fund-raising committee for the San Marcos High School music programs and a Cub Scout assistant leader and den leader.
Hennessy graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Seattle University and both a master’s and Ph.D. from Marquette.
Hennessy is the 10th SWT professor to be named a Piper Professor. Other SWT 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; and Barbara Hatcher, 1993, curriculum and instruction.