The Vernon L. Greene Award for Faculty Excellence

Remarks by Head of School Robert P. Henderson Jr. '76

My responsibility at this moment is to honor a member of the faculty whose care and attention have helped to make Nobles a very special place.

The Vernon L. Greene Award for Faculty Excellence was established in 1982 by David Arnold of the Class of 1940 in honor of Vernon Greene, who for many years and many people embodied faculty excellence. The award is presented yearly to a member of this faculty who encourages and nurtures academic excellence, whose pedagogy is distinguished and whose commitment to students and school community is thorough.

Over a decade ago I had dinner with some graduates of Nobles from the 1940s. At one point I commented that excellence in teaching and the relationship between students and faculty were still at the heart of this school. One of these men then asked if everyone would comment on a teacher who had made a significant impact on him. Almost to a person, these men then spoke about Vernon Greene. Sixty years after the fact, these men remembered Vernon Greene as one of the great models and inspirations of their lives. No award can speak more deeply about the soul and value of the Nobles experience than this one. Indeed, we are today gathered on Greene Field, named in his honor many years ago.

I often think that all the awards should go to the people who least need and expect them. That is certainly the case with this year’s recipient of the Vernon Greene Award, who I will ask to please come up to the stage while I share a few thoughts about her. Julia Russell, please come forward and join me on my right.

As I was seeking insight about Julia for this recognition, a colleague said to me that a line from the New Testament of the Bible, Phillipians 2, verses 14 and 15, somehow came immediately to his mind. Paraphrased, the line is, “Do all things without complaint and you will be a light to the world.” Quietly, steadily, thoughtfully, loyally, intentionally, and without ego or pretension, Julia offers her leadership to this faculty and community. As a classroom teacher she emphasizes close analysis, pushing her students to be sure that what they believe a text means is actually supported by what a text says. She expects her students to think things through, and then do it again, gently yet firmly pushing discussions deeper. A writer herself, her passion for writing is a hallmark of her work with students, and she teaches writing as a joyous and essential craft.

As the chair of the English department, she has tackled challenging issues in the curriculum, and has led a careful yet immensely creative multi-year conversation among her colleagues. This will result in the transformation of what we do at the Class II and Class III levels so that there will be greater connection with other disciplines and more collaborative work between English teachers.

Julia also is a complete school person, coaching, advising, doing admissions work, serving as an teacher evaluation team chair, volunteering to help where she can, attend ingvarious concerts and games when she can, and chaperoning school trips (most notably the very demanding service expedition to Cambodia last March) always with her wonderful blend of caring, humility, humor, dedication and sharp intelligence.

The architect of this award, David Arnold, Nobles Class of 1940 and a Distinguished Graduate ofthe School, was unable to be with us today, but he is here with us in spirit. President of the Board of Trustees Jeff Grogran will present the Vernon Greene Prize for Faculty Excellence to a master teacher, a wonderful mentor, a dedicated citizen of this community and the community beyond ourwalls, and a role model for all of us, Julia Russell.

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The Vernon L. Greene Award for Faculty Excellence