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Faculty awarded for teaching excellence and community service

December 17, 2014

George Matejka, professor and chair of Ursuline’s Philosophy Department recently received the College’s Marie LoPresti Faculty Award for community service. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Duquesne University. He also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology with a Specialization in Biblical Studies from the Gregorian University, Rome, Italy. 

Matejka teaches Bioethics, a course required for all Ursuline nursing majors. Because of his expertise in this subject, he has been appointed to and currently serves on the Ethics Committees of both St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and Jennings Center for Older Adults. His service at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center has been ongoing since 2008 and involves not only monthly committee meetings, but also educational service to the committee and to the wider hospital community, as an annual speaker in the Zella Hall Lecture Series.  

At Jennings Center for Older Adults, Matjka has served on the Ethics Committee for four years. He has recently been nominated and accepted to serve on the Board of Directors of Jennings. As a Board member, he has been appointed to serve on the Program Planning and Strategy Committee of the Board.    

Matejka also has a strong interest in the ethical dimension of human relationships with animals and has lectured at the National Animal Rights Conference several times. He has published reviews of several books in the field of Animals and Ethics. 

George has been a speaker for conferences at Oxford University, England, as well as Yale University and Michigan State University.
He has been a Board member of the Cleveland Ecumenical Institute for Religious Studies (CEIRS) for nine years and serves as the Board President for the past five years. The mission of CEIRS is to provide college-level religious education courses for adults throughout the Greater Cleveland area within an ecumenical context. George has taught courses for CEIRS in addition to serving on its Board. 

Matejka continues to be actively involved in service at his parish church, St. Clare Catholic Church, Lyndhurst.  He was a member of the Parish Council for five years, serving as the chair of the Council for four years during which time St. Clare Parish underwent significant changes as it began to function collaboratively with its “cluster” partner parish, St. Paschal Baylon, Highland Heights. 

Matejka has three cats, each having been rescued from dire circumstances. He participates in efforts to educate society about the value of the TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) program to help reduce the overpopulation of feral cats in our community. He has assisted in the construction and placement of winter shelters for feral cat communities throughout the Greater Cleveland area, as well as actively assisting rescue groups in the transportation of cats to the Animal Protective League for spay/neuter services.

George has been a monthly platelet donor to the American Red Cross for the past three years.  As a whole blood donor, George has surpassed the five-gallon mark over the years.


The Teaching Excellence Award is given to a both a full-time and part-time faculty member who has been nominated by students or faculty as exhibiting excellence in teaching and exemplifying the Ursuline approach to education. A committee of peers selects the recipients. The full-time awardee this year is Sr. Diane Therese Pinchot, faculty in the art department.

Sr. Diane Therese Pinchot, OSU, Ph.D., MFA is known by students not only as a gifted artist and talented art professor, but she is known as a significant force in their lives. In Sr. Diane’s words, “(The student) voice, through art, begins the birthing process that will help mirror what truly needs to be changed as well as cherished in our society for future generations.”

She describes the major influence on her teaching: it came in 1992 when she was commissioned to design and help build an altar in El Salvador on the spot where 4 Churchwomen were found in a shallow grave. El Salvadoran people taught her how to build in the developing world and made her more aware of art as advocacy.

This influence is still apparent. One of her former students sent in the following endorsement: “Her involvement with advocacy is remarkable. She has a passion for the earth and life itself, which inspires her students to be more aware. She reminds us that there are bigger forces in the world, and that injustices need to be exposed.”

Sr. Diane’s many years in the art department have been noteworthy. She participated in planning and implementing new majors such as art history, graphic design, and undergraduate art therapy. She was also a major participant in planning the College’s Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

She has maintained currency in the field by creating art herself, and has shown in 29-juried regional exhibitions, 24-juried national exhibitions, six-juried international shows, 16-invitational shows, five-one-person shows and the Alumnae and Ursuline College Art Faculty Exhibitions, along with many commissions and art related events.

Sr. Diane believes deeply in the mission of Ursuline College. She explains that Ursuline’s mission gives her a deep ground of inspiration and meaning, thus adding to the teacher she’s become over these years. The College’s Catholic heritage, women-centered learning, values-based curricula and inclusive global perspective, all have their roots in her life, her art and the studio classroom. Many of her students have come with her to homeless shelters, have helped her teach in workshops and events, have traveled with her to peaceful demonstrations, have created events on campus, and most importantly have created and shown artwork representing their values within a global society. 

Melissa Barranger-Mathys, Ph.D. has taught chemistry for 19 years at Ursuline and, prior to that, at Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA. Her work as a part-time professor is very much appreciated by her students, as described in these words from a student’s nomination letter:

“Dr. B is a valuable and diligent professor. Her constant smile and unending kindness make even chemistry enjoyable. I am able to learn better as a student because she is enthusiastic about the material. I never feel discouraged when I am in her class. Any time I do not understand something, she stops for a moment to clarify. She is direct and informative when lecturing and notices that every student’s learning style is different.”

Barranger-Mathys explains that involving students is critical to teaching chemistry. She has found the “clickers” to provide a very helpful means to student involvement, as well as an excellent way to gain immediate student feedback. In addition to clickers, several years ago, she introduced “Mensa Mondays.” She chooses non-science questions to test students’ problem-solving skills and logical rationalization. After students answered the question, the class takes a few minutes to talk about how each person approached the answer. Student evaluations reflected the fact that they found much value in this exercise.

Barranger-Mathys has been doing peptide research for 25 years. One of her approaches to student-centered research is to “lead by example.” Each year she brings at least one student into her research group—this is done entirely apart from class content and evaluation. In the research process, she stresses logical, theory based experimentation with a creative flair. Tempered with her experience, the atmosphere she fosters in the research group is one of respect for individual ideas. 

Another student summarizes Barranger-Mathis’ impact in the classroom: “Dr. B has high expectations. I was inspired to rise to them, and to learn to think critically. She makes sure that I understand chemistry.”

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