Spence named 2017 Kreider Prize for Teaching recipient
Typical of the generous mindset of Robert Spence, when Kristi Kneas stopped by in early April 2017 with a huge smile brightening her face, he thought she came to tell him good news about students.
The dean for academic affairs and faculty development at Elizabethtown College brought good news, indeed. But it was not about students, directly.
Spence, a tenured associate professor of music and director of instrumental studies, had been selected for the College’s 2017 Kreider Prize for Teaching.
“I was setting up for band rehearsal when she dropped that news on me,” Spence said. “I was overwhelmed.”
The Kreider Prize for Teaching, named in honor of J. Kenneth Kreider, professor of history emeritus, and Carroll L. Kreider, professor of business emerita, for their inspirational service to students at Elizabethtown College, is made possible each year by the generosity of one of their previous students.
It’s my turn to pay it forward.”
“I am grateful to our donor, Dr. Thomas Conner, who has made the annual award possible in order that we may celebrate that which we value,” said Kneas. “Given our emphasis on excellence in teaching at Elizabethtown College, it is a great privilege for us to be able to recognize our most outstanding teachers in such a public way.”
Nominations come, in writing, from alumni, students and faculty and staff members. The Kreider Prize selection committee, comprising students and Professional Development Committee members, chooses the recipient from the nominees.
“In the Kreider Prize Award recipient letter that the Selection Committee submitted, it was suggested that Dr. Spence embodies the E-town “X Factor” to which, part of our institutional success in the Brookings Institute study was attributed,” Kneas said.
“However, there’s little mystery as to why Spence is worthy of this prestigious honor,” she added. The award committee and nominating letters “made explicitly clear that his dedication, passion and servant leadership, combined with his ability to provide a welcoming, challenging and effective learning environment have inspired students to do their best possible work and to be the best versions of themselves.”
Spence earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, his master’s degree in music–trombone performance from Syracuse University and his doctoral degree in musical arts–wind band conducting from Michigan State University.
He previously, was an instructor for Westmont Hilltop and Oley Valley school districts in Pennsylvania and he was on the faculty at Sam Houston State University in Texas, Simpson College in Iowa and Albright College and Millersville University in Pennsylvania.
Spence’s philosophy, he said, is, first and foremost, student-centered. “I wish to freely pass on the information given to me. It’s my turn to pay it forward.”
At E-town, Spence conducts the Symphonic Band, the College-Community Orchestra and teaches courses in woodwind, brass and percussion methods, instrumental music methods and conducting and arranging. He leads a jazz music history First-Year Seminar. In addition to teaching, he and his wife, Wendie, own E-town’s Spence Candies.
“Band and Orchestra are special courses for me because they also involve E-town students who are not music majors,” Spence said. “We also have orchestra members from the extended Elizabethtown/Lancaster community. … These kinds of people are the life’s blood of any performing ensemble; they serve to remind those of us who do this professionally that making music just for the love of it is a terrific and worthwhile thing.”