Robert Darden Honored With Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year Award

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Robert Darden, associate professor of journalism and media arts in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been named the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year at Baylor University. The annual award is presented to a faculty member who makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor.
April 15, 2011

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Robert Darden, associate professor of journalism and media arts in the College of Arts and Sciences known for his work on Baylor University's Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, has been named the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year. The annual award is presented to a faculty member who makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor. The award was presented during the university's annual Honors Convocation held April 13.

As this year's recipient, Darden will receive $20,000 and present a public lecture in the fall on an academic topic of his choosing.

The Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year award is based on:

    Teaching, which is judged to be of the highest order of intellectual acumen and pedagogical effectiveness,
    Research, which is recognized as outstanding by the national and international, as well as local, community of scholars, and
    Service, which is regarded as exemplary in building the character of intellectual community at Baylor.

"Bob Darden's selection as the 2011 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year recognizes his extensive contributions to Baylor and the broader community in all three of the areas that the award addresses," said Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy and professor of music theory at Baylor.

"His teaching in introductory classes, as well as specialized upper-level courses, is routinely praised by students, many of whom have gone on to prominent levels of achievement in their own right," Bennighof added. "His research and writing have ranged widely from scholarly publications to a variety of other books, essays, articles and film projects, and all of this work has been reflected as well in multiple instances of service, most notably his initiative in establishing the massive and vital Black Gospel Music Restoration Project."

"For someone who attended Baylor, few awards could mean as much as one named for one of the university's great heroes, Dr. Cornelia Marschall Smith," Darden said from Scotland, where he was giving a lecture at the University of Edinburgh.

"To be selected by my peers makes it all the sweeter. I realize that any number of worthy candidates could - and possibly should - have won this award. I'm greatly touched, and I promise to continue to strive towards the level of excellence in teaching and research that Dr. Cornelia attained throughout her long and brilliant career," he added.

About Robert Darden

Darden earned his B.S.Ed. in journalism/art from Baylor in 1976 and received his M.A. in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1978. He taught at Baylor as an adjunct professor from 1988-99, before joining the journalism faculty full time. He was named associate professor in 2006.

Darden is the author of more than two dozen books, including People Get Ready: A New History of Black Gospel Music. He is well known for leading Baylor's Black Gospel Music Restoration Project to identify, acquire, preserve, record and catalogue the most at-risk music from the black gospel music tradition. So far, Baylor has obtained for preservation more than 2,000 loaned or donated LPs, 78s, 45s and pieces of music in taped formats from throughout the world. About 1,700 items have been digitized.

Darden has served as arts and entertainment editor for The Waco Tribune-Herald from 1978-86 and gospel music editor for Billboard magazine from 1984-94. Since 1987, he has been senior editor of The Wittenburg Door.

His articles and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Oxford American, Southern Arts, Amazing Journeys, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), among others, and he has been interviewed about his work on the NPR programs "All Things Considered" and "Fresh Air" and "Tapestry" (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.).

In 1986, Darden received a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to study art history and film at the University of Bristol in England. In 2008, he was named a Baylor University Centennial Professor, which allowed him to research black gospel artists and the effects of their music on the Civil Rights Movement. That same year, he was named Outstanding Research Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Baylor.

At Baylor, Darden teaches Intro to Mass Communication, Magazine and Feature Writing, Screenwriting, Film Writing/Criticism/Review, Reporting and Writing for Media, and Writing for Media Markets.

About Dr. Cornelia Marschall Smith

A 1918 Baylor biology graduate, Dr. Cornelia Marschall Smith earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1925 and her doctorate from Johns Hopkins in 1928. She was a professor of biology at Baylor from 1940-67, chair of the biology department from 1943-67, and director of Strecker Museum from 1943-67. She retired in 1967, but maintained an office in Armstrong Browning Library to assist charitable causes. In 1980, Baylor honored Smith with an endowed chair known as the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professorship in Biology. She was widely celebrated among her colleagues, students and alumni for fine teaching, generous mentoring and her many interdisciplinary interests. She was a lively and continuing contributor to the Baylor intellectual community until her death on Aug. 27, 1997, at the age of 101.

Previous recipients of the award include:

    • Dr. Joyce Jones, The Joyce Oliver Bowden Professor of Music, professor of organ and Organist-in-Residence

    • Dr. William Hillis, The Cornelia Marschall Smith professor of biology

    • Dr. D. Thomas Hanks Jr., professor of English and Master Teacher

    • Dr. Robert M. Baird, professor of philosophy and Master Teacher

    • Dr. Kevin G. Pinney, professor of chemistry

    • Dr. Ann E. Rushing, professor and associate chair of biology

    • Former Baylor history professor Dr. Wallace L. Daniel Jr., who now serves as provost at Mercer University

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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