Baylor Grads Win F. Ray Wilson II Award for Best Thesis

  • Left to Right- Dr. Andrew Wisely, director of the Honors Program at Baylor, and Baylor graduates and Wilson Award winners Robert Hill, social sciences winner; Caleb Simone, humanities winner; and Shingo Kihira, physical sciences winner.
  • Robert Hill
  • Shingo Kihira
  • Caleb Simone
May 1, 2012

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Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, (254) 710-6275

WACO, Texas (May 1, 2012) - Three Baylor University graduates -- Robert Hill, Shingo Kihira and Caleb Simone -- were recently named the 2011 recipients of the F. Ray Wilson II Award for Best Thesis, honoring undergraduate thesis writers in Baylor's Honors Program.

The Wilson Award honors the life of the beloved Baylor professor of biology and Master Teacher, who directed 37 honors theses during more than 30 years of teaching at the university. Each year, the award recognizes the outstanding theses in the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities. The winners are invited to return to campus to deliver remarks to Honors Program graduates of the following year.

Hill, Kihira and Simone were honored April 18 during the Honors Program banquet at Baylor. The three winners were among the undergraduates during Baylor's annual Honors Week in 2011. After earning an "Outstanding" designation following their thesis defense, the student's thesis could then be nominated for the Wilson Award by the thesis director or an Honors Program faculty member.

The goal of the award is to reward excellence in scholarship, said Dr. Wes Null, vice provost for undergraduate education at Baylor.

"Rewarding quality work breeds excellence that benefits Baylor and the Honors Program in ways that we may not always fully recognize," Null said. "Baylor has had a remarkable year and not just in athletics. I think it's more than appropriate to refer to these three winners tonight as our academic Robert Griffins."

Robert Hill

Hill, the winner in the social sciences, graduated from Baylor in the fall of 2011 with a bachelor's degree in international studies and a minor in political science. He came to Baylor from Houston as a provost scholar.

During his four years of undergraduate studies, he was enrolled in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and the Honors Program. As a junior, he served as co-founder of Baylor's French Club and spent the spring semester studying abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. In his final year, he became president of Baylor's chapter of Sigma Iota Rho, the international honors society for international studies.

His thesis, "Militarism and Israel: Origins and Development of Cultural Militarism in Israeli Society and Politics," traces the evolution of Israeli militarism from its roots in 19th century European ideology to the contemporary era and concentrates on its development during the British Mandate period in Palestine. Hill argues that cultural militarism did not wither with the creation of the Israeli Defense Force and the Sate of Israel in 1948. Instead, militant individuals and ideologies from across the political spectrum became intimately involved in domestic and foreign policy making at the highest levels. Dr. Linda Adams, professor of political science and director of the international studies program at Baylor, served as his mentor.

Now in Chicago, Hill plans to take the LSAT in the fall.

Shingo Kihira

Kihira, the winner in the physical sciences, graduated from Baylor in the spring of 2011 as a pre-med Business Fellow. He came to Baylor from Menlo Park, Calif.

As an undergraduate, he balanced his course load with business classes, sciences classes and Honors Program requirements. He spent a summer as a research intern at Princeton University and has volunteered in free clinics in Belize and Mexico. His research took him to two conferences, and he was treasurer for the American Medical Student Association at Baylor, public relations chair for Alpha Epsilon Delta at Baylor and a Baylor Cultural Ambassador.

Kihira's thesis looks at b1C integrin regulated cki-1/p27KIP1 localization in nucleoplasm. Dr. Myeongwoo Lee, associate professor and graduate program director of biology at Baylor, served as his mentor.

Now a full-time research assistant at Stanford University, Kihira is studying the cytoskeletal role of EZH2 in follicular lymphomas. He volunteers at the VA hospice weekly and was part of a team of doctors running free clinics in Brazil last summer. He will be applying to medical school in June.

Caleb Simone

Simone, the winner in the humanities, graduated magna cum laude from Baylor in the spring of 2011 from the University Scholars program with concentrations in political science and classics.

As an undergraduate, he was a William Carey Crane Scholar, a member of the Eta Sigma Phi Classics Honors Society and a visiting student at Christ Church at the University of Oxford. He also worked as an intern for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, taught as a summer lecturer at Paideia, a classical school in Houston, and served as a student leader with Anglican Student Ministries at Baylor.

His thesis, "The First Tragic Philosopher: Nietzsche's Self-Portrait in Ecce Homo," argues for an interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy from the vantage point of his

autobiography Ecce Homo, an interpretation that Nietzsche himself advocated. Dr. Dwight Allman, associate professor of political science at Baylor, served as his mentor.

Simone lives with his wife, Ashley, and son, Aidan, in Chappell Hill, Texas, where he works on a local farm and continues research with his mentor. In the fall, he will work as a tutor in New York City and his wife will begin graduate study at Columbia University. Simone plans to pursue a doctoral program in the New England area in the near future.

Each winner and thesis director will have their names engraved on a nameplate affixed to the F. Ray Wilson Award for Best Thesis plaque that hangs in the Honors Program suite in Morrison Hall on the Baylor campus.

The award honors Wilson, who died July 9, 2004, shortly after he had been named director of the Honors Program at Baylor. The establishment of the award also coincided with the 50-year anniversary of the program in 2009.

About the Honors Program

Created in 1959, the Honors Program at Baylor supplements traditional degree requirements and majors in all departments and schools of the university by offering more challenging classes, encouraging interdisciplinary approaches to learning and providing opportunities for students to pursue independent study and research with individual faculty mentors.

About Baylor

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

by Katy McDowall, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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