The 2018 recipients honored for teaching excellence at the university's commencement on May 12 were Paul Marcus, Haynes Professor of Law, and Randolph A. Coleman, professor of chemistry.
The Graves Award is named for the university’s 23rd president and selected annually by the president of the university from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans.
Marcus teaches and writes in diverse areas, from criminal procedure to copyright law. Over the years, he has taught nearly a dozen different courses and is constantly innovating teaching techniques, according to the award citation. Students rave about his knowledge and passion for each subject and consistently remark on how inspiring it is to learn from him.
As one student wrote: “It was an absolute honor to be taught by Professor Marcus. He has so much knowledge on the subject and always made sure we were critical of outcomes.” Another student noted: “He teaches with so much passion and encourages us to think deeply about the material and its larger impact on society.”
Marcus has long been an unofficial teaching mentor to faculty at W&M and across the country. He exchanges class visits with every single junior faculty member at the Law School where he is recognized as a leader in teaching.
According to one faculty member: “Watching him teach is like watching a maestro. He seems to almost anticipate student questions and confusions, and he is masterful at using questions to help teach the material.” Because of his exceptional classroom skill and his role as a mentor for junior faculty, Marcus was named the inaugural Kelly Professor for Excellence in Teaching, a rotating Law School position in which an exceptional teacher leads workshops on improving classroom performance.
Marcus is also a three-time winner of the Walter Williams, Jr. Memorial Teaching Award, which is selected by the graduating students. He has received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and was selected for the McGlothlin Award for Exceptional Teaching in 2017.
Marcus’s passion for teaching extends outside the classroom. He is a Big Brother and has been named Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Williamsburg mentor of the year. He also created and taught an innovative law and literature course for inmates at the local jail.
Randolph A. Coleman
Coleman has been an outstanding teacher and mentor to thousands of students during his 47-year career at W&M, according to the award citation. Known for making required courses like Organic Chemistry II compelling and relevant, Coleman has been an innovator throughout his career.
He created courses on neurochemistry and his freshman COLL 150, The Chemistry of Emotion and Behavior, to meet surging student demands for neuroscience courses. Coleman has been a leader in the implementation of new classroom technology and was the first in Arts & Sciences to offer a fully online summer course in biochemistry.
Coleman’s student course evaluations are filled with praise for both his teaching and thoughtful mentoring outside of the classroom, according to the award citation. Faculty colleagues and students applaud his ability to convey complex concepts simply, but with rigor and infectious energy.
One student described his teaching style as “enthusiastic and passionate” on a course evaluation, and those words appeared again and again in the student comments. A biochemistry student wrote: “Professor Coleman is hard and expects a lot out of you, but he really does believe in all of his students. That combination is very rare and has motivated me to do well in his class. I hope that he never retires because he is truly a gem at this university.”
Students praise his ability to create a positive learning environment. One student wrote: “In a class saturated with challenging material, Dr. Coleman found a way to create a relaxed and professional atmosphere that promoted learning and educated discussions between students.”
Coleman has also served as a devoted mentor and advisor to a number of students. A faculty colleague reported that alumni fondly remember “his generosity, willingness to listen and sincere interest in their plans for life after William & Mary.” Coleman created the premedical advising program at the university and was, as a faculty colleague described, “the heart and soul of the program.”
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America’s oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.