Dr. Denger accepted the prestigious award with characteristic humor and kept his response concise and creative. He referenced an Abraham Lincoln quote, “It is sometimes better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” and joked that in this case he didn’t seem to have that option available. Dr. Denger then referred to his selection for this honor as “very pleasantly bizarre” and asked for time to collect his “ruminations on the extremely startling, wonderful, and strange event,” inviting everyone “who cared to be neurologically damaged by his thoughts later on” to join him at the Crow’s Nest after Commencement for a reception.
The Distinguished Teaching Award has been presented each year at LSSU since 1971. Dr. Gillette described some of the characteristics of distinguished teachers:
- Has clear student learning objectives for courses
- Demonstrates command of subject matter
- Explains difficult concepts clearly
- Utilizes creative and innovative methods to engage students
- Generates excitement and enthusiasm for subject matter
- Sets high standards and helps students reach these standards
- Inspires students
Dr. Gillette then relayed some comments made by those who nominated Dr. Denger:
His passion for the theories and study of communication is inspiring, both in and out of lecture. Because of his immense experience in the field, he always has real-life examples he uses to help explain hard concepts. . . . He is always passionate about the subject, and his passion draws you in.
He showed us how the information that he could give to us would apply throughout our many different career choices and made something that many students find unbearable actually enjoyable. . . he takes a course that not a lot of students want to take and makes it enjoyable and personally helps you develop skills in the communications field that will further your life opportunities.
…always has real-world examples to help explain difficult concepts, and uses inventive and inclusive classroom activities to engage students – even those who originally did not see the relevance of the course to their field of study.
He made the classroom and office a comfortable, non-threatening safe haven to learn, discover and discuss.
Dr. Denger earned a bachelor of science in political science with a minor in speech communication in 1980, and a master of arts in speech communication in 1986, both from the Eastern Michigan University. He completed a PhD in speech communication from Wayne State University in 1998. Dr. Denger was hired as an assistant professor at LSSU in 1995 and received tenure in 2000. He was promoted to associate professor in 2001 and served as chair of Communication Studies and the Fine & Performing Arts Department until June 2015. He currently serves on the university curriculum committee. In 2015 Dr. Denger was recognized by the university for 20 years of service to LSSU.
Excerpts from a resolution presented to Dr. Denger from LSSU President Rod Hanley are as follows:
Dr. Denger, as a Professor of Communication, demonstrates an infectious intensity, inspiring interest and instilling insightful inquiry and investigation in his students. As a scholar with wide-ranging academic interests, Dr. Denger models a perpetual intellectual curiosity and the enriching value of lifelong learning to both his students and faculty colleagues… Dr. Denger creates a classroom environment where students feel valued and in which their contributions are respectfully recognized.