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MSU recognizes faculty and staff through Distinguished Service Awards


Morehead State University is recognizing faculty and staff for their service and teaching by announcing the 2020 recipients of MSU’s Distinguished Service Awards.  

Dr. Christopher Beckham, assistant professor of education, was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Service Award. Dr. David Eisenhour, professor of biology, was given the Distinguished Teacher Award. Toni Hobbs, director of creative and branding services, was awarded the Distinguished Staff Service Award. Dr. Gary O’Dell, professor of geology, received the Distinguished Researcher Award.  

Dr. Beckham has served on many committees at the department, college and university level, including the General Education Council, First Year Seminar Committee, Teacher Education Council and the Research and Creative Productions Committee. In his community, Beckham has served on the boards of the Fleming County Public Library, the Fleming County Little League, the District Council for the Fleming County Cooperative Extension Service and the Superintendent’s Council of Fleming County Schools, to name a few. He also has been a volunteer bell ringer for the Salvation Army and is an active member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. He has won the SGA (Student Government Association) Student Choice Award and the Greek Life Faculty Member of the Year. He and his children enjoy raising hay, ponies, chickens and lots of produce on their Fleming County farm.  

Dr. David Eisenhour earned an M.S. from the University of Tennessee in 1993 and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1997, both in zoology. He began teaching at MSU in August 1997 and has been a professor since 2008. Eisenhour teaches courses in General Biology, Zoology, Human Anatomy, Comparative Anatomy, Ichthyology and Mammalogy, among others. His mostly lab-intensive courses involve hands-on activities where he actively engages students in dissections or sampling fishes and mammals in their natural habitats. His research focuses on freshwater fishes and includes studies in natural history, conservation biology, evolution and zoogeography. These studies have led to about 25 publications, several of which are co-authored by his graduate or undergraduate researchers. Both his teaching and research aim to reconnect people to the natural world, a goal that extends to the community where he has led BioBlitzes and other field trips or hands-on presentations to groups ranging from early elementary students to retired citizens. His vertebrate animal expertise has been used to co-author a couple of popular zoology textbooks, develop and maintain the Fish and Mammal Collections at MSU, and serve as a long-time member of MSU’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), which ensures the institution complies with federal policies safeguarding animals as subjects in research, testing and teaching. Eisenhour has been the primary pre-pharmacy advisor for the last 23 years. Recently, he became involved with preparing future STEM educators as part of MSUTeach and the Noyce Grant programs. 

Toni Hobbs, an Eastern Kentucky native, is the director of creative and branding services at Morehead State University. In April 2020, she was accepted in the Ph.D. in Arts Administration program at the University of Kentucky (UK). She holds a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from UK, as well as a Master of Arts in Studio Art and a Bachelor of Arts in Art (Graphic Design), both from MSU. She is an illustrator and graphic designer who has exhibited nationally and internationally and has served as an MSU instructor since 2008. Hobbs currently serves on MSU Staff Congress and Eagle Diversity and Inclusion Team. She was instrumental in developing the initial concept for a mentoring program for underrepresented students, DREAMS, and is a founding member and former advisor of ALLYance (an LGBTQ+ student organization) at MSU. She also established the Hobbs Endowment for Equality, a $50,000 endowment fund committed to supporting academic scholarship and diverse programming at MSU. She is a member of the MSU Visionary Society and Circle of Excellence, providing leadership and financial support to further the University’s mission. Her community service includes serving as chair of the Morehead-Rowan County NewCity Community Development Corp., and chair of the Rowan County Arts Center promotions foundation board, where she also volunteers as an instructor. 

Dr. Gary A. O’Dell served as an environmental technician for 11 years with the Division of Water and Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection before joining Morehead State University faculty in 2001 as a physical geographer. Having become a member of the National Speleological Society in 1967 as a young teenager, he has spent the last 50 years passionately involved in exploring and studying caves and karst systems. Along the way, O’Dell developed an abiding interest in the historical and environmental context of Kentucky and a considerable proportion of his published work is focused in this area. In 2014, he was appointed as state geographer by Governor Steve Beshear to recognize his significant Kentucky-focused contributions. O’Dell serves on the boards of directors of the American Cave Conservation Association and the Rockcastle Karst Conservancy. He is also the vice president of the Kentucky Old Mill Association. In 2020, he was honored by the National Speleological Society with the prestigious Peter M. Hauer Award in Spelean History. Among other projects, he is currently engaged in developing a textbook on the Appalachian Highlands region's physical landscape and environmental history. He received a Summer Fellowship award from MSU this year.