Donate Now

MAIT recipient Dr. Ben Bankhurst honored in virtual recognition ceremony

The Foundation congratulates Dr. Benjamin Bankhurst, assistant professor of history, on being chosen as this year’s recipient of the Mentzer Award for Inspirational Teaching (MAIT). All Shepherd students are invited to nominate a professor for the award and briefly describe how he or she has made a difference in their life or the life of a classmate. Dr. Bankhurst was nominated by Allison Wharton, a rising senior from Charles Town, WV majoring in general history with a minor in Appalachian Studies. She also serves as the student representative on the university’s Appalachian Studies program board.

“I am humbled to have been nominated, let alone awarded, this honor,” said Dr. Bankhurst. “I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to the student committee and the student who nominated me for the award. I am surprised and truly grateful to work with such outstanding and committed students.”

“Allison Wharton is an exceptional student and an active and committed member of the larger Shepherd community.” he added. “Her work inside the classroom and outside of it, including her work with the Shepherd SPEAKS series and local oral history projects, is truly exceptional.”

The MAIT was created by Shepherd alumna Susan Mentzer-Blair ’72 and her husband, William “Bill” Blair, to honor a full-time professor recognized by Shepherd students for being particularly inspiring and having a profound effect on his or her students. Sue’s brother, Dr. John Thomas “Tom” Mentzer, served as inspiration for the award. Tom received a similar accolade from his PhD candidate students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he held the Bruce Chair of Excellence in the business department. The MAIT honors Sue’s brother, who passed away in 2010, as well as her mother, who followed in 2014. A portion of each of their estates was used to create this unique recognition.

Sue Mentzer-Blair is a retired school counselor with Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland, and also serves as a director emerita on the Foundation’s board of directors. Bill Blair is also a retired educator, having taught history and worked as a school counselor with Jefferson County Public Schools in West Virginia.

This year’s presentation marks the fourth award of the MAIT. Previous recipients include Dr. Timothy Nixon, associate professor of English (2017); Dr. Stephanie Slocum-Schaffer, associate professor of political science (2018); and Dr. Geraldine Crawley-Woods, professor of social work (2019).

The MAIT is typically presented at Shepherd’s Annual Student Recognition Day ceremony; however, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s student and faculty award recipients have been honored virtually. Visit Dr. Bankhurt’s virtual recognition page, which includes a video message of congratulations from Sue Menzter-Blair, who hails from West Virginia and said, “It’s a wonderful coincidence that the professor chosen for this award teaches West Virginia history and loves the culture of Appalachia. We’re thrilled to present Dr. Bankhurst with this award.”