Year End Honors: Thesis of the Year, Howard Canaan Thesis Award, Program Honoree, Online Student of the Year

At the end of each school year the MA English Literature program and Mercy College overall award a number of distinctions to students and faculty. I would like to share the results of these here with our graduate program community.

One such college-wide distinction is the Mercy College Online Student of the Year, chosen from thousands of eligible students across all Mercy programs by a college-wide committee of faculty and administrators. The award bespeaks academic accomplishments both in the classroom and beyond. For the second year in a row that rare distinction has been awarded to one of our own, an MA English graduate student.

  • The winner of the 2020 Mercy College Online Student of the Year Award is Cornelius Fortune.

The MA program itself traditionally awards two annual distinctions: the Thesis of the Year award, and the Graduate English Christie Bowl (program honoree) award. This year we are introducing a third distinction which will become an annual practice: The Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation. Before I get to sharing with you the names of the people recognized for these three awards, I want to introduce to you all who Howard Canaan was, and what this new award is about. The following is provided by Dr. Dugan, long-time colleague and friend of Howard:

Dr. Howard Canaan taught English literature at Mercy College for thirty-one years. During his tenure, he was an active scholar, engaged and innovative instructor, respected faculty leader, and a valued colleague. He was the faculty advisor for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Dr. Canaan was one of the founding faculty members of Mercy’s online program, and taught successfully online and in-person at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Canaan’s areas of interest included Renaissance literature, speculative fiction, and satire. He wrote plays and epic poems that revealed his incisive wit and adroitness with the English language. With Dr. Joel Feimer (who founded the MA English Lit program), Howard co-authored Tales of Wonder from Many Lands: A Reader for Composition, adapted by Mercy College and other colleges and universities. Dr. Canaan’s legacy is one of commitment to students, a strong dedication to the value of English literature and the liberal arts, an insatiable curiosity, a generous spirit, and a belief that education can be transformative for the individual and for the society.

Howard passed away this April.

To honor him and what he stood for we in the MA program have done what small thing we can, and that is to create the Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation. We will award this distinction annually to a thesis that does one or some of the following: approaches literary analysis in a unique, unexpected, or unusual way; reconsiders and otherwise treats with dignity genre fiction; or involves interdisciplinary studies.

  • The winner of the 2020 Howard Canaan Thesis Award for Innovation is Jana Enderle for her thesis “Song of Silence: The Role of Silence in the Decline of the Harry/Falstaff Relationship in 2 Henry VI.

Not surprisingly we had numerous theses submitted during the summer and fall 2019, and spring 2020, that had an innovative approach or otherwise spoke to this award’s criteria. Selecting one study from this group was extraordinarily difficult as all such theses were excellent and worthy in their own right. The same was the case for determining the other thesis award that the MA program recognizes, the overall Thesis of the Year. All theses written during the summer and fall 2019, and spring 2020, were eligible and considered for this distinction. The final paper was selected by a panel of faculty with no students’ papers in the running.

  • The winner of the 2020 Thesis of the Year award is Cecily Van Cleave for her paper: “Feminist Themes in North and South and The Mill on the Floss.”

The panels for these distinctions would like to recognize and applaud the quality of all theses written during the past school year.

The third distinction that the MA program awards each year is the Graduate English Christie Bowl, named for the late Joannes Christie who established and long chaired Mercy College’s English Program. The award, determined by the collective graduate faculty, recognizes one graduating student for their consistent academic excellence and classroom performance throughout their time in the graduate program, their other contributions to the program’s scholarly learning community, and their relevant accomplishments beyond the program (e.g. publications, presentations at conferences).

  • The winner of the 2020 Graduate English Christie Bowl is Cornelius Fortune.

Lastly, Mercy College annually recognizes one faculty member from across all programs at the college for the Online Instructor of the Year award. The person so recognized for this distinction is chosen from hundreds of instructors by a college-wide committee of faculty and administrators. We’re happy to announce that one of our own has been recognized this year for his excellence.

  • The winner of the 2020 Mercy College Online Instructor of the Year award is Dr. Sean Dugan.

It is always a strange thing to announce such distinctions as when doing so one can’t help but think of the marvelous students and studies that are not the ones named. It is extraordinarily difficult to locate any single person to honor for any of these awards out of the many exceptional students graduating each school year from our program and the college overall. So as we recognize these honorees let us please also recognize all members of the graduating MA class of 2019-20 for their hard work and dedication that has gotten them to this moment of completing their MA degree in English Literature. Congratulations, everyone. Here’s to the end of one of the strangest school years in memory, here’s to the summer ahead, and here’s to the eventual end of this coronavirus pandemic, let us hope soon.