Shepherd educator named W.Va. professor of the year

March 07, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Ed Snyder, a professor of environmental studies at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., recently was named West Virginia professor of the year by the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia. Student Amy Joy Hess, pictured with Snyder, said he cares about and is interested in his students.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — — Around the Shepherd University campus, Ed Snyder is known for his ability to teach theory and how to apply it in real life.

His windmill and “veggie van” are examples of how he reaches out to his students.

Snyder, 62, of Shepherdstown, professor of environmental studies, has been named West Virginia professor of the year. The award is given by the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia.

A $10,000 check goes with the honor.

“I knew I was up for it, but I was surprised when I got it,” Snyder said. “When I saw the quality of the other four finalists, I knew I could have voted for any one of them. I was proud to be in such good company.”

He said he is pleased that the five finalists came from small liberal-arts schools across the state.

“Dr. Snyder truly cares about and is interested in his students,” said Amy Joy Hess, a first-year student. “He teaches us how to learn and to take charge of our own education.”

Snyder joined the Shepherd faculty in 1986 to teach physics and physical science. In 1994, he led the effort to develop the school’s environmental studies program. It was expanded to a major in 1997.

In 2000, it evolved into the Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences, and Snyder became its chairman.

He describes the program as one “that allows students to develop academically and with hands-on field skills which can lead them to successful employment or into graduate school.”

Many of his students, because of the extensive field work he puts them through, end up working in industry or government agencies.

Some of his students serve internships at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department’s National Conservation Training Center outside Shepherdstown.

NCTC also sends staffers to Shepherd as adjunct professors.

“They bring in incredible credentials and backgrounds,” Snyder said.

His students learn about the developing science of sustainable energy through such sources as wind and solar power. Snyder believes the “tipping point” from existing coal, oil and gas technology to sustainable energy will come in five to seven years.

One of his most popular classrooms is a renewable energy lab set up in a small, fenced-in yard outside his office building. He used grant money to install a 30-foot-high windmill that generates electricity. Photovoltaic-cell technology is also in place. And then there’s the veggie van, an aging GMC diesel van that runs on vegetable oil.

Previous professor of the year winners from Shepherd were Sylvia Shurbutt in 2006 and Linda Tate in 2004. Two local finalists for the award were Scott Beard in 2009 and Jerry Thomas in 2007.

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