Academics University

Pivotal faculty making a positive impact

The University of Miami Faculty Senate honored faculty game-changers for their outstanding service, teaching, and scholarship at a special ceremony Monday.
Faculty Senate Awards
The University of Miami Faculty Senate honored three faculty members for outstanding work, left to right, Norman J. Altman, Harry W. Flynn Jr., and Donald Spivey. Photo: Jenny Abreu for the University of Miami

Game-changers on the cutting edge. 

That was the theme of the 2019 Faculty Senate Awards Ceremony Monday evening when University of Miami Provost Jeffrey Duerk introduced faculty members Norman J. Altman, professor emeritus in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine; Donald Spivey, distinguished professor of history from the College of Arts and Sciences; and Harry W. Flynn Jr., professor and J. Donald M. Gass Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the Miller School of Medicine. 

The three eminent professors were described as “hidden jewels of the University” by Faculty Senate Chair Tomás Salerno, who emceed the ceremony attended by more than 200 faculty, trustees, and senior administrators. 

Altman was honored first with the James W. McLamore Outstanding Service Award, presented to individuals who go above and beyond the call of duty as a member of the University community. He currently serves as ombudsperson of the Miller School, and director of the division of comparative pathology.   

JoNell Potter, professor of clinical obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Miller School of Medicine, introduced Altman at the ceremony as “a man of great integrity and honor” and cited Altman’s passion and compassion as two of his most admirable traits. She shared how Altman and his wife quietly became a “second family and advocate” for a teenage paraplegic who was the victim of a random gunshot wound and had to have 30 surgeries. 

“As a colleague, he actively listens and advises when asked,” she added. “Stand up and do it for the good of the institution,” is how she described his impact at the U. 

Altman, a landmark researcher who has held many significant roles at the University including vice-provost for research, director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and director of the National Institutes of Health Primate Center, said in his acceptance remarks that his favorite title is “professor.” 

“Service is what we do with, and for, others,” Altman added with humility. To that end, Altman served on numerous Faculty Senate committees, was speaker and chair of multiple committees on the Medical School Faculty Council, and instituted a University-wide compliance program. He also served on committees for the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, and as a consultant to the World Health Organization. He is the co-author of more than 130 publications and seven books, and served on the editorial boards of three journals and as a reviewer for eight. 

The Faculty Senate’s Outstanding Teaching Award was presented next to Spivey, a distinguished professor in the Department of History and Cooper Fellow in the College of Arts and Sciences. It recognizes outstanding teaching by a faculty member with a substantial record of teaching at the University. 

Hermann Beck, professor of history and also a Cooper Fellow, introduced and praised Spivey’s “multifaceted, relevant, and highly engaging teaching style.” Returning the compliment, Spivey joked, “Being in a department of such fine colleagues, you have to teach well or they will make you look bad.” 

An expert in American history, Spivey previously received a Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity. He is one of the leading scholars in the field of African-American history, with nine authored or edited books to his name. His team-taught course on “The Sixties” is one of the most popular at the University; over 1,000 students have taken the course since its inception in 2000, and 248 faculty from all 11 schools and colleges have been invited to co-teach the class.   Spivey invites enrollees in the course to join a sixties-style band to learn the music first-hand and said, “189 have answered the call, mostly from the medical campus. Someone needs to do a study about why so many doctors are closet musicians.” 

Outside of the University of Miami, Spivey is a frequent lecturer, commentator on radio and television, and contributor to publications. He has received the Robert Peterson Recognition Award, and was selected as the Top Black Educator of South Florida by Legacy Magazine. 

To culminate the ceremony, the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award was presented to Flynn, professor and J. Donald M. Gass Distinguished Chair in Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the Miller School of Medicine. 

Stephen G. Schwartz, professor of clinical ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, introduced Flynn, an early mentor. They first met in 2003 when Flynn was the keynote speaker at a conference in Virginia and Schwartz was a young faculty member at another medical school. 

“When I joined Bascom Palmer, there wasn’t anyone on the faculty that did more to encourage me, invite me to lectures, and make introductions than Dr. Flynn,” said Schwartz. “He would always take my phone call, and was never too busy to talk or advise me. I can say without a doubt, if not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am at Bascom Palmer. And, hundreds of others could tell you the same thing.” 

Flynn joined the University of Miami in 1978 at the behest of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s founding chairman Dr. Edward W. D. Norton. He is now one of the leading ophthalmologistsand researchersin the country. 

“It is unbelievable and joyous to receive this award,” Flynn said. “When Dr. Norton interviewed me, he told me, ‘we have plenty of retina specialists. We need someone to take on the really tough cases.’ I said, ‘I’ll scrub the floors, I’ll wash the walls, if you give me the chance.’ He offered me the job. And I’m still enthusiastic.” 

During his 41 years at Bascom Palmer, Flynn has trained hundreds of ophthalmology residents and retina fellows, and is recognized as a world leader in the care of patients with vitreoretinal diseases such as retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, and severe infections of the eye (endophthalmitis). He is author or co-author of over 571 peer-reviewed publications, 106 book chapters and 8 textbooks, and has delivered 31 named lectures around the world. He received the 2011 University of Miami Medical Group’s Faculty Hero Award and the 2012 Bascom Palmer Professor of the Year Award, and countless others outside the University. 

“If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants,” Flynn said in closing, acknowledging Dr. Bascom H. Palmer, who did the first-ever corneal implant, and his mentor Edward Norton who founded the Bascom Palmer Institute and also helped dedicate the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind 88 years ago. 

“If you can enjoy what you do and have positive impact, it doesn’t get any better,” Flynn said.