Foundation Professors Named

Published on May 16, 2022

Dr. Mike Austin and Dr. Gary Brown have earned Eastern Kentucky University’s highest honor for teaching excellence. The EKU Society of Foundation Professors recognizes faculty members who are “creative, self-motivated exemplars of the ideal college professor.” The pair were recognized as the newest Foundation Professors during a dinner on May 3 in the EKU Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre.

Dr. Mike Austin serves as professor of philosophy and religious studies and has taught at EKU since 2004. 

“It is an honor to introduce Mike as one of our newest Foundation Professors,” said Dr. Charlotte Rich in her introduction of Austin. “When I saw Mike’s application for the Foundation Professorship and learned more about his teaching, scholarship and service at EKU, I knew I was seeing someone who epitomizes what a Foundation Professor is about.” 

Austin grew up in a family of educators who placed education as an important value. His father was an elementary school principal and his mother served in the school system as a social worker. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kansas State University, he earned his master’s degree in philosophy from Biola University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He said he chose to study philosophy because he wanted to help students explore important questions. 

Since his arrival at EKU, Austin has authored several books, countless articles and reviews in the area of ethics. His extensive teaching record reveals his care for students’ learning and growth. His development of a multi-week character experiment in his beginning ethics course demonstrates his thoughtful approach, noting, “Students are able to test the different accounts of character and cultivation of virtue we are studying in the laboratory of their daily lives.” 

Dr. Gary Brown serves as professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Environmental Health Science and has been at EKU for 21 years. He is a certified industrial hygienist, registered sanitarian and a diplomat of the American Academy of Sanitarians. 

“When his colleagues heard he was nominated for Foundation Professor, letters of support from the academic and private sector began pouring in,” said Dr. Dana Howell when introducing Brown during the dinner. “Dr. Brown is known for his long-standing personal connections with alumni. He helps students find employment, and then maintains those relationships for decades.” 

“On a personal note,” Howell said, “Dr. Brown is known as a fashionista with an extensive Hawaiian shirt and sneaker collection, which has garnered him the title of Best Dressed person at EKU.” 

Brown enjoys a long and diverse career in environmental/occupational public health and safety, starting in an entry-level laboratory technician’s position, working his way into management, and ultimately, a consultant for public and private entities nationally and internationally. 

All full-time tenured faculty members are eligible for the Foundation Professorship. The award provides a salary stipend of $5,000 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. More than 70 professors have been recognized for teaching excellence by the EKU Foundation since the awards were first given in 1988.