David West, the 2009 Perkins Award recipient

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Middlebury College has named Associate Professor of Geology David P. West as the recipient of the 2009 Perkins Award for Excellence in Teaching.

West, a field geologist whose students have commended him for being “a master at explaining concepts” and “incredibly organized and effective,” will be honored at a reception open to the college community on Tuesday, March 17, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 104 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall.

The Perkins Award is given annually to a member of the College’s Natural Sciences Division. In odd-numbered years it is awarded to a member of the biology, chemistry and biochemistry, geology, or physics department; in even-numbered years it is awarded to a member of the computer science or mathematics department. The award supports the recipient’s faculty development.

David West joined the Middlebury faculty as an assistant professor in 2001. He earned tenure and attained the rank of associate professor in 2004, and has chaired the geology department since 2005. Originally from North Carolina, he holds a B.S. from Appalachian State University, and both an M.S. and Ph.D. in geological sciences from the University of Maine.

Prior to accepting a post at Middlebury, West was an assistant professor of geology at Earlham College for five years. He has earned numerous National Science Foundation and U.S. Geological Survey grants to further his research, and has co-edited two books and numerous publications.

“The geology department here at Middlebury emphasizes fieldwork, so it has been a perfect fit for me,” West says. “Plus, the geology of Vermont is really a record of ancient faulting and continental collisions. So our students don’t have to travel very far to find a record of events of hundreds of millions of years ago.”

“Just look around,” West continued. “This area alone offers a wide diversity of geologic features. There’s Snake Mountain, the OMYA [calcium carbonate] quarry, Otter Creek, Lake Champlain and more. Our geology students enjoy an abundance of field studies opportunities, which is great because I feel most comfortable teaching in a field setting.”

Nominated by the student advisory committee in the Natural Sciences Division, West was cited as: “Everything a natural sciences teacher should be-intelligent, communicative, passionate, available, approachable, friendly, a great role model, and someone who draws interest from across campus to the natural sciences.”

The Perkins Award is provided by the Professor Llewellyn R. Perkins and Dr. Ruth M.H. Perkins Memorial Research Fund, and was made possible by a gift from Ruth Perkins, Middlebury Class of 1932, in memory of her husband, Llewellyn, who taught at Middlebury from 1914 through 1941. Professor Perkins founded and chaired the mathematics department.

Their children, Marion Perkins Harris ‘57, a science teacher, and David Perkins, a physician, augmented the fund and expanded the scope of the award to honor their mother, Ruth, as well as their father.