University of Lynchburg English professor Dr. Nina Vest Salmon is the 2019-20 recipient of the T. A. Abbott Award for Faculty Excellence. The honor is given out annually by Higher Education and Leadership Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Salmon, who has taught at Lynchburg since 1997, also is an ordained Episcopal priest. She is the 33rd recipient of this award, which honors a professor whose “teaching and personal example” inspire excellence in students, and whose “underlying educational philosophy … is wholeness of person.” The recipient of this award typically “manifests a personal faith” and “continues to grow and learn in his or her academic discipline.”
Salmon will be presented with an engraved plaque at a public ceremony at the University of Lynchburg “in the near future,” Chris Dorsey, the organization’s president, said. A cash gift of $1,000 for Salmon’s “continued growth as a teacher and scholar” is also included.
“I am humbled and honored,” Salmon said. “I’m grateful to work in a place where I’m surrounded by talented, supportive, encouraging people. … I’m so very fortunate to be able to lead this bivocational life that blends a life of teaching with ordained ministry.”
In her nomination letter, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Allison Jablonski argued that “the magic happens” precisely in this intersection between Salmon’s academic duties and her calling as an ordained priest.
“As the director of Senior Symposium, a capstone course that every graduating senior must take, she guides students and a team of faculty through self-reflection, critical thinking, and core text readings,” Jablonski wrote.
Senior Symposium themes have included “Pursuit of Happiness: Health, Wealth, and Life Choices,” “Information and Misinformation: Media, Morality, Manipulation,” and “Effecting Change: Rebellion, Resistance, Advocacy.”
The course, Jablonksi added, “touches hundreds of students annually, and those students have a variety of academic motivations and abilities. Students sometimes have problems and logistics can be tricky; Dr. Salmon handles these smoothly and with grace.”
Salmon’s advantage? “She sees every student and faculty member as a child of God,” Jablonski said. “She makes an intentional, deliberate choice to love those students who face the most challenges. … Dr. Salmon is not a big evangelist, but by word and example, she demonstrates the love of God and respect for her neighbor.”
Salmon’s research interests include Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, and race and equality in Southwest Virginia. She frequently takes her students to visit The Anne Spencer House & Garden Museum in Lynchburg for what she calls “service learning.”
“In Anne Spencer’s garden, students have contemplated their own poetry, assisted in clean-up, and experienced the peace of a beautiful spot in the city,” Jablonski said. “They’ve also tried to understand the oppression [Spencer faced].”
And it is there again, Jablonski added, where Salmon “experiences an intersection of faith, service learning, and education.”
As Jablonski concluded, “Dr. Nina Salmon exhibits more ‘wholeness of person’ than just about anyone I know.”
Salmon is grateful for the support. Jablonski’s spirit and her letter “highlight the sort of leadership that nurtures growth,” she said.
“I’ve had incredible opportunities at Lynchburg to lean into my calling, developing strengths and exploring interests,” Salmon added. “That sort of positive support is, I think, what Lynchburg aims to offer as an institution — a fertile ground for students to settle into who they will become.”