EKU Names 2024 Society of Foundation Professors

Published on May 14, 2024

By Evan Bentley

While this year Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) celebrates 150 years of teaching in the Commonwealth, every year for almost four decades EKU recognizes the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of teaching through the Society of Foundation Professors. On April 30, 2024, Dr. Todd Gooch, professor of philosophy and religious studies, and Dr. Jason Koontz, music professor, were inducted into the Society of Foundation Professors. Dr. David Coleman, executive director of EKU Honors and professor of history, was inducted as an honorary Foundation Professor. 

“I am proud of this honored tradition of celebrating our most outstanding faculty through the Society of Foundation Professors,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “These three professors come to campus every day with the clear intentions of enhancing the lives of our students through education. Their work does not go unnoticed, and I applaud their commitment to providing opportunity for every student.”

The EKU Foundation established the Society of Foundation Professors to recognize “creative, self-motivated exemplars of the ideal college professor.”

Full-time tenured faculty members are eligible for the Foundation Professorship. The award provides a $5,000 salary increase for two years. The selection is made by a committee composed of members of the Society of Foundation Professors, and the process provides for a high degree of peer review. 

Gooch started as a part-time professor at EKU in 1999 and became full-time in 2001. He has taught 25 different courses during his time at EKU. Gooch has designed and conducts interdisciplinary Honors seminars with colleagues, and has contributed to several academic books about the history of modern religious thought.

Although Gooch grew up in California, his father grew up in Lincoln County, Kentucky, where the family has a seven-generation farm. Gooch’s great-aunt graduated from Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College (now EKU) in the early 1930s, and Gooch recalled fond memories of her teaching him sentence composition on the front porch at the family farm where he spent summers as a boy.

“Because of this family history, I am especially honored to have been able to pursue a career as a professor at EKU,” said Gooch. “I want for my students to develop their abilities to think intelligently and exercise good judgment in making informed choices. My biggest aspiration, however, is for them to experience the study of the liberal arts as something that is itself liberating by virtue of the opportunity it provides us for self-reflection, and, in conversation with others who may think differently, to identify, clarify and articulate our own fundamental beliefs and values.”

Considering himself an EKU devotee for the past 32 years, Koontz’s EKU journey began as an undergraduate music student in 1992, and he’s now taught at EKU for 24 years. He has traveled the world to perform and teach music and collaborate with students and artists.

Koontz was encouraged by colleagues to apply for the Foundation Professorship. "I am honored to receive the recognition for my work and commitment to EKU and be selected to become a part of such a venerated group of educators," said Koontz. "Throughout my career, I feel that I have made a positive impact on EKU and have maintained a strong desire to educate, collaborate and nurture my varied professional interests."

Koontz strives to ensure students become independent thinkers, artists and lifelong learners through “sound pedagogy, leading by example, being open to new ideas and promoting an atmosphere where students are challenged and can express themselves freely in a multitude of ways.”

Coleman, an honorary inductee, has achieved significant accomplishments throughout his time at EKU, including publishing two scholarly books and seven research articles. He served as chair of the EKU History Department for five years and has served as executive director of the EKU Honors program for the past 11 years. Last fall, Coleman received national recognition as a Fellow of the National Collegiate Honors Council.

About being an honorary inductee into the EKU Society of Foundation Professors, Coleman said, "It means a great deal to me to be recognized by my peers on the EKU faculty as a campus community leader in the core teaching mission of our institution—I am deeply grateful and honored."

As for his highest ambitions as a professor, he said, “So many of my EKU faculty colleagues and I share the goal of building in our students a lifelong curiosity and a growth mindset that encourages our students to persist in pursuing their dreams. As embodied in the inscription on EKU’s Turner Gate, we seek to bring students to our campus to seek not just ‘Knowledge,’ but also ‘Wisdom.’ We also seek to empower our students who go out into the world to live lives of ‘Passion’ and ‘Purpose’ in service to their communities.”

Gooch, Koontz and Coleman join more than 70 professors who have been recognized for teaching excellence since the awards were first given in 1988. As an Employer of Choice, EKU celebrates and rewards the outstanding efforts and accomplishments of its faculty through several recognition opportunities, such as the Society of Foundation Professors.