Four educators honored as George Fox University’s teachers, researchers of the year

May 13th, 2019

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Sarita Gallagher and Rhett Luedtke are recognized at the undergraduate level, while Daniel Kang and Leah Payne are selected as top graduate professors for 2018-19

Rhett Luedtke

Sarita Gallagher

Daniel Kang

Leah Payne

NEWBERG, Ore. – George Fox University honored four of its own with the presentation of faculty achievement awards for teaching and research at the conclusion of its 2018-19 academic year.

At the undergraduate level, Professor of Religious Studies Sarita Gallagher and Professor of Theatre Rhett Luedtke were recognized as the top teacher and researcher of the year, respectively, while at the graduate level Daniel Kang, an associate professor of physical therapy, and Leah Payne, an assistant professor of Christian studies at Portland Seminary, won the corresponding awards.

Gallagher has taught at George Fox for nine years and specializes in courses in cross-cultural ministry, world religions, church history, and biblical theology.

“I love George Fox’s emphasis on serving the world with compassion and excellence in whatever profession you are in,” she said. “The greatest joy that I have as a professor is seeing my students grow and learn both in their professions and as followers of Christ. I am very honored to win this award. It has been a joy to teach here all these years, and I look forward to many years to come.”

Luedtke said he was “completely surprised” by the honor, but he shouldn’t have been. While the award came partly in recognition of his 16 years of directing plays at George Fox (32 shows and counting), the primary reason for his selection resulted from his artistic direction of the Big Bridge Theatre Consortium, a group of 12 college theatre programs he formed three years ago for the purpose of developing new plays dedicated to peace and interfaith conflict.

The first of the consortium’s plays, The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference this Month, written by Arlene Hutton, will be produced at George Fox, Hope College, Point Loma University, North Park College, and Seattle Pacific University in the coming school year.

“Given the rise in Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and general xenophobia in our country over the past year, we felt called to commission new plays to foster dialogue on our campuses about religious diversity,” he said of the project. “This work is the pinnacle of the integration of my Christian faith as a Quaker and my work as a theatre artist. I’m excited to see how God blesses our communities through it.”

For Kang, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing stories of how his former students are making a difference in their communities.

“My accomplishment lies in the impact I am making in future therapists and, in turn, the ripple effect it has on the community,” he said. “It is not just my technical knowledge that I wish to share with our students; rather, I strive to be a positive agent in shaping the character and motivation of future physical therapists. I believe it is in this authentic sharing of myself that translates to worthy teaching.”

Kang teaches pathophysiology, cardiopulmonary therapeutic, orthopedic (spine), pain science and administration classes, and he specializes in patient-centered care and the treatment of chronic disease. He is also involved with the primary care initiative that integrates physical therapists with physicians at Providence Newberg Hospital in Newberg, Oregon, and Walla Walla Hospital in Walla Walla, Washington.

Payne’s scholarship has been prolific since she joined the seminary in 2014. Since then, she has authored or coauthored 10 articles and book chapters and has presented 11 juried papers at academic conferences. She has served on multiple grant teams that have won over $2 million from the Lilly Endowment, the Kern Foundation, and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning.

Her first book, Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century, was published in 2016 with Palgrave MacMillan and was winner of the Pneuma Book of the Year by the Society for Pentecostal Studies. This year she will coauthor a chapter for the edited volume Religion, Attire, and Adornment in North America (Columbia University Press).

Payne has also published multiple articles in Christianity Today and The Washington Post. In addition, she co-hosts, with professor Brian Doak, a podcast called Weird Religion, giving her an outlet to discuss “funny explorations of religion and pop culture,” she says. The podcast is now in its third season.

“I love getting to know my students and being a part of their lives as they make important decisions, explore who they are, and learn about the presence of God in their lives,” Payne said. “Our students are extraordinary!”

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes among the top Christian universities in the country and is a Christian college classified by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Regional University.” Money magazine ranked it the No. 1 school in Oregon in its 2017-18 “Best Colleges for Your Money” list. More than 4,000 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem and Redmond, Ore. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, six seminary degrees, and 13 master’s and doctoral degrees.


Linda Samek
Provost, George Fox University

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