As the school year comes to an end, graduation rapidly approaches for many seniors at Weber State University. At Spring Commencement next week, not only will the seniors be honored, but two of WSU’s professors will also be honored, as  Diane M. Kawamura of the radiological sciences department and John M. Mbaku of the economics department will be presented with the 2012 Presidential Distinguished Professor Award.

The Distinguished Professor Award was established in 2006 after a large gift was made out to WSU by an anonymous donor. The purpose of the program is to recognize WSU faculty who demonstrate teaching, research, scholarship and community service of the highest quality. Since 2006, 18 professors from a variety of departments have been bestowed this award. Last year’s honorees were Brooke Arkush from the anthropology department, Judy Elsley from the English department and Yu-Jane Yang from the music department.

The school’s Board of Trustees selected Kawamura and Mbaku this year as the 19th and 20th professors to receive this award. As recipients, Kawamura and Mbaku both will receive a cash prize of $4,000 a year for four years, which can be used for professional academic goals. They will also both retain the title of Presidential Distinguished Professor for as long as they are teaching, and upon retirement, they will have “emeritus” added to their titles. Kawamura and Mbaku will also be featured on the Honor Wall for Presidential Distinguished Professors, located in the Stewart Library.

Mbaku has been teaching at WSU since coming from Kennesaw State University in 1991. Mbaku received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Georgia in 1985. He has also received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, a master’s degree in international business studies, and a Juris Doctor (professional graduate degree in law) and graduate certificate in environmental and natural resources law. Over the last 20 years, Mbaku has focused his research on the importance of a stable framework for African economic development. While doing this, he has written five books and contributed to an additional 12 or so publications. Along with this work, Mbaku has also written more than 80 articles that have been published in respected journals.

Kawamura was at a loss for words when asked about how she felt upon being told she was receiving this prestigious award. After some thought, she said it was both exciting and humbling.

“It’s such an honor,” she said. “And it’s so humbling, because it follows so many other professors who made such huge contributions. That makes it a very humbling experience.”

She said that she is unsure of what she will do with the reward she recieved but is very grateful for the generosity of the contributor of the award.

Kawamura has been teaching at WSU since January 1978, when she was offered a teaching position after having worked at St. Benedict’s Hospital in Ogden as an X-ray technologist and clinical instructor. She said that when she received the offer, she was unsure what she wanted to do. After a week of thought and encouragement from others, she accepted the position. She said she takes great satisfaction in knowing that what the students learn in class is helping others.

“Because of what they learn here, they are giving better patient care and are being better imaging professionals.”

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