Two retiring faculty members recognized at Catawba graduation
Catawba College News Service
Two long-serving faculty members at Catawba College were recognized during commencement exercises May 12. Dr. Michael Baranski, a professor of biology with 38 years of service, and Dr. Laurel Eason, a professor of English with 21 years of service, will retire at the end of this academic year.
Baranski joined the Catawba faculty in 1974 and has spent his career at Catawba teaching a wide range of subjects, most notably field courses. He has also taken a leadership role on campus, promoting environmental preservation, conservation and awareness among his students and the public at large.
A native of West Virginia, Baranski earned his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry from West Liberty State College, now West Liberty University. He earned his doctorate in ecology and botany from N.C. State University.
Baranski has inspired his students to pursue careers in subject areas that he taught, published and presented acclaimed scholarly work, and garnered awards and accolades from his peers in academe.
The Association of Southeastern Biologists honored him in 2009 with its Meritorious Teaching Award in recognition of his excellence in teaching. In 2008, he received the Elizabeth Ann Bartholomew Award, given annually by the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society.
He has served for over two decades on the N.C. Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Advisory Committee and has conducted natural areas inventories for the Nature Conservancy, the Conservation Trust for N.C., the N.C. Natural Heritage Program, Rowan County Parks and Recreation Commission, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has been president of the N.C. Academy of Science, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society and the Association of Southeastern Biologists.
Although Baranski has been a member of the faculty at Catawba College, he has also had teaching appointments at other institutions, including the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, the Highlands Biological Station, N.C. State University, Duke University and UNC-Charlotte.
With a nod to his passion for the environment, Lake Baranski in Catawba’s Ecological Preserve is named in his honor. An endowed scholarship at Catawba also bears his name for his foresight and willingness to take the environmental lead long before that was the acknowledged right thing to do.
Married to Julie, the couple has two adult children.
Eason joined the faculty at Catawba College in 1991 and will retire after 21 years at Catawba, but her career as a teacher has spanned a total of 47 years. She has taught at other institutions, including Montgomery Bell Academy, the universities of Tennessee and Arkansas, Battle Ground Academy, Vanderbilt University and The University of Tubingen in Germany.
Eason attended Wesleyan College for two years before earning her undergraduate degree in English from Emory and Henry College. She earned her master’s degree in English literature from the University of Arkansas. Later, she earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in German language and literature from Vanderbilt University.
She studies and writes about literatures of the West, especially of the 19th Century American, British, German and Russian novels. At Catawba, she has taught English and German and has served as a freshman adviser. She says that some of her fondest Catawba memories involved “one-on-one conversations with students and colleagues, and ‘electric moments’ in class.”
Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa while a student at the University of Arkansas, she was named one of six Outstanding Teachers of the Humanities in Tennessee by the Tennessee Humanities Council in 1988 and in 1990, received a year’s fully funded sabbatical for a study of five Victorian novels from five Western countries from the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was awarded Catawba’s Swink Prize for Outstanding Classroom Teaching in 2008.
Eason has been married for almost 46 years to Dr. Douglas Eason who recently retired as president of Mitchell Community College in Statesville. The two are parents of two adult children.