Eastern Kentucky University’s College of Science has honored three of its retired faculty members as its first Iconic Professors as part of a new college initiative.
Dr. Sanford L. Jones Sr., Dr. John L. Meisenheimer Sr. and the late Professor Meredith J. Cox are the first faculty members to earn the prestigious honor.
“COVID-19 may have forced the cancellation of the ceremony, but it could not stop the recognition,” said Dr. Tom Otieno, dean of the College of Science. “In addition to receiving a personalized iconic professor medallion, a prominent space in our state-of-the-art Science Building has been named after each of these truly exceptional individuals.”
Professor Meredith J. Cox
Mrs. Alice Cox Putman (B.S., Clinical Laboratory Science, 1972) recalled how her late grandfather, Professor Cox, impacted her life: “He rescued me from an inadequate rural school system and paid for me to go to a small boarding school in Versailles, Kentucky, that changed my life. I have personally worked for a hospital system that would not fund continuing education for its staff. My granddaddy would be proud that his successors will benefit from this fund. Generations of students will benefit from these professors’ knowledge and mentorship just like I did. In addition, Dr. Jones and Dr. Meisenheimer were great teachers. I am privileged to have known them.”
Dr. Gary Booth (B.S., Chemistry, 1962), also credits Cox for setting him on the path to success. “I had a very enjoyable career as an organic chemist … and I give Meredith Cox the credit for steering me in that direction,” Booth said. “Meredith certainly taught organic chemistry well, but he also, by example, taught something equally important, which was using drama in communication. His classes were an equal mixture of excitement and terror. He paced, he told stories, he abruptly called on students to explain portions of the assignment. Heaven help you if you were not prepared. As a result, everyone prepared. And many got infected with the beauty of organic chemistry.”
Dr. Sanford L. Jones Sr.
For Dr. Jones, the Iconic Professor honor prompted fond remembrances of career milestones. “I recalled the one-room school building with one teacher for all eight grades and the happy times of walking two miles to school. Even more so, I remember growing up during the Great Depression, the hardship, and values learned living on a farm.”
He also acknowledged the contribution of many special individuals to his achievements. “The honor of being recognized as an iconic professor has come into being by the support of many persons,” including parents, faculty colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences, the dean of the College of Science, associates, friends and students who enrolled in general physiology and endocrinology courses. “In all of everything, our two sons and daughter, and my wife, June Daugherty Jones, were of a oneness of principle in our life’s journey as a family.”
Jones celebrated his 95th birthday in September 2020. As a special tribute to mark the occasion, his granddaughter, Margaret, wrote: “Many years have been traversed, many minds opened and educated, many moments found in stillness, many days lived in integrity, many learned and taught.”
According to Jones, “the Iconic Professor recognition emphasizes the significance of the faculty in the process of teaching and research, and the essence of the quality of education provided by Eastern Kentucky University.”
Jones considers his military service to his country as one of his greatest accomplishments. During World War II, he served with the 15th U.S. Army Air Force in Italy and flew 35 aerial combat missions on a B-24 Liberator bomber.
Dr. Nelson D. Horseman (B.S., Biology, 1973; M.S., Biology, 1975) recalled: “As luck would have it, my first course with Dr. Jones came in my junior year at EKU. I was, to put it mildly, not an accomplished student in my first two years. It wasn't that I lacked desire or talent, but there was so much else to do and learn outside of the classrooms. By the time I took physiology with Dr. Jones, I had figured out both why I needed to study, and how to do the work that was necessary to succeed with such a demanding professor. After a couple of courses with Dr. Jones, I was hooked on endocrinology (the study of hormones). Laboratory work became a passion for me. Dr. Jones, along with other biology professors (Williams, Branson, Schroeder), gave me tremendous support and encouragement in a project that was doomed to fail, but destined to teach me the foundations for the rest of my career in teaching and research. I am so happy and gratified that one of my professor-heroes has been chosen as an Iconic Professor in the College of Science. The honor is richly deserved for his teaching, mentorship and service to the University.”
Dr. John L. Meisenheimer Sr.
“I have always loved EKU and my wonderful students. It was a great feeling to have that love returned,” said Dr. Meisenheimer of the honor. “Most of my students were the first in their families to attend college, and they were there to work hard and be successful in their lives. That happened, and I have been very proud of them. The University administrators were very supportive while I was there. They permitted me to do several quirky things in class and lab, such as using the latest chemical separator equipment and identification devices to compare ‘Grandpa’s moonshine’ to quality Kentucky bourbon. Some of those students got very good jobs at Kentucky distillery laboratories after that.”
Dr. Stephen Wright (B.S. Chemistry, 1968) recalled: “Occasionally, someone comes into your life that changes the course of your future. Dr. John Meisenheimer is that person in my life. I went to EKU intending to stay only two years and then leave to attend mortuary science school. I had worked in a funeral home in high school, and my future was to become a funeral director. Dr. Meisenheimer was my adviser and, through his sage advice, convinced me that I had a better future in medicine. Even better, he advised that I could help more people through a medical career. I took his advice and, as they say, the rest is history – at least my history. I am eternally grateful. I am sure there are scores of others with similar stories.”
The Iconic Professor program is a collaborative initiative. Members of the College of Science Dean’s Development Cabinet, the honorees and their families, and many current and retired faculty and staff, and alumni have contributed to the success of the initiative. While honoring exemplary professors who transformed the lives of Eastern students, the initiative also provides an opportunity for former students, other alumni and friends of EKU to help recognize faculty members’ contributions by making a gift to the College of Science Endowment for Faculty Success Fund, established to support the next generation of iconic professors. The gift can be designated in honor of any of the iconic professors, or contributed without a designation. The gifts will provide a reliable source, in perpetuity, of enhanced support for faculty professional development, research and tools for effective and innovative teaching.
“We are so grateful to the donors who celebrate these incredible professors by supporting the College of Science Endowment for Faculty Success Fund,” said Betina Gardner, vice president for University Development and Alumni Engagement. “Gifts to the endowment ensure that our current and future faculty have the support they need to aspire to the distinction of these iconic professors.”
To make a gift or pledge today to honor the legacy of any of the college’s Iconic Professors and challenge and inspire current and future faculty to become professors who likewise change students’ lives, visit www.alumni.eku.edu/s/1763/index.aspx?sid=1763&pgid=1779&gid=2&cid=4113&ecid=4113&post_id=0.