Three professors were honored April 15 for their scholarly achievement. This year the annual provost’s award ceremony for outstanding accomplishment by faculty was held in conjunction with Catholic University’s first Research Day, a daylong celebration of scholarship by students, faculty, and staff across disciplines. The day included more than 250 oral and poster presentations and two keynote addresses.

In welcoming members of the University community to Heritage Hall at the end of the day, Provost Andrew Abela noted that the presentation of the annual faculty awards was a fitting end to a day that celebrated research and scholarship at Catholic University.

Abela thanked the members of the Research Day planning committee for a terrific day and mentioned how much he enjoyed the breadth of presentations.

Victor Nakas, vice provost for administration, served as master of ceremonies for the faculty awards. “Today we will present awards to three individuals who represent the best of the University’s high standards for scholarly achievement,” said Nakas before individually honoring each of the three professors.

New Faculty Scholar Award: Jonathan Monaghan, Assistant Professor, Department of Art

While Jonathan Monaghan is “just at the start of his academic career, he has already garnered an outstanding reputation on the local, national, and international level,” said Nakas. He received his B.F.A. from the New York Institute of Technology in 2008 and his M.F.A. from the University of Maryland in 2011.

Jonathan Monaghan speaks about his work after receiving the New Faculty Scholar Award
Jonathan Monaghan speaks about his work after receiving the New Faculty Scholar Award.

A selection of some of his most important recent accomplishments includes solo and group exhibitions in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific; screenings at leading film festivals, including Sundance; The British Film Institute, Southbank, London; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art; prestigious fellowships and awards, most recently the Trawick Prize, given annually to the top visual artist in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area; and prominent invited presentations at a variety of significant contemporary art museums and galleries. 

A selection of some of his most important recent accomplishments includes solo and group exhibitions in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific; screenings at leading film festivals, including Sundance; The British Film Institute, Southbank, London; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art; prestigious fellowships and awards, most recently the Trawick Prize, given annually to the top visual artist in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area; and prominent invited presentations at a variety of significant contemporary art museums and galleries

In nominating Monaghan for the New Faculty Scholar Award, Nora Heimann, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art, described his award-winning sculptures, prints, and animated video installations as “combining the latest in cutting-edge technologies with age-old craftsmanship to produce works that are often witty and always thought-provoking, and that are as highly innovative as they are hauntingly strange and memorably beautiful.” 

In accepting the award, Monaghan said, “In creating my animated films, I seek to say something meaningful about high-end technology. In my classes, I challenge students to creatively use technology, an important strategy for success in the 21 century.”

Outstanding Achievement in the Performing and Expressive Arts: Eleanor Holdridge, Assistant Professor, Head of the M.F.A. in Directing Program, Department of Drama

Eleanor Holdridge “is a gifted teacher and theatre artist who has the rare ability to train emerging artists while continuing to work as a professional director,” said Nakas in presenting the award.

Eleanor Holdridge speaks about the University’s active involvement in the local theatre community
Eleanor Holdridge speaks about the University’s active involvement in the local theatre community after receiving the award for Outstanding Achievement in the Performing and Expressive Arts.

She earned a B.A. at Sarah Lawrence College and an M.F.A. in directing from the Yale School of Drama. Holdridge is an associate artist at The Red Bull Theatre in New York and Olney Theatre in Maryland. Since joining the faculty in 2009, she has directed 26 professional and University productions, 18 of which were staged at professional theatres of national significance. Her professional credits include productions at LaMaMa Theatre in New York City, Geva Theatre in Rochester, Triad Stage in Greensboro, Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, the Cincinnati Playhouse, and the Orlando Shakespeare Festival. Her D.C. credits include plays staged at Constellation Theatre, the Folger Theatre, the Olney Theatre Center, Round House Theatre, and Theatre J. 

Holdridge is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and is the only female to have directed a professional production at the Folger Theatre. She was recently nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction for her work on Theatre J’s production of Queens Girl in the World. This is the second time she is receiving this University award for her outstanding achievements in performing and expressive arts.

“It’s wonderful to see theatre arts, and CUA’s place in them, recognized. I’m proud to have a part in that,” said Holdridge in accepting the award. Washington, D.C., is the most burgeoning theatre community in the U.S. outside of New York City, and CUA’s drama department has played an important role in that, she said.

Outstanding Achievement in Research and Scholarship: James Howard Jr., Wylma R. and James R. Curtin Professor, Applied Experimental/Human Development, Department of Psychology

When James Howard arrived on campus in 1973, “there were limited signs remaining of the experimental research that had made Catholic University the site of the first Catholic psychology laboratory in the country almost 100 years earlier,” said Nakas in presenting the award. “Over the next 43 years, Dr. Howard played a major role in not only re-establishing the research focus of the psychology department, but also bringing international recognition to it.”

His research has included studies in auditory and visual perception, memory and learning, and cognitive neuroscience. For roughly the last 25 years, he has focused his research on cognitive function in healthy aging and age-related pathology, most recently examining links between age-related changes in cognition and changes in brain structure and function. 

Provost Andrew Abela and Marc Sebrechts, chair of the Department of Psychology, pose with the Outstanding Achievement in Research and Scholarship award that Sebrechts accepted on behalf of James Howard Jr
Provost Andrew Abela and Marc Sebrechts, chair of the Department of Psychology, pose with the Outstanding Achievement in Research and Scholarship award that Sebrechts accepted on behalf of James Howard Jr.

Howard has written or co-authored more than 90 research articles that have appeared in some of the most prestigious journals in the field. His nearly 200 presentations have included invited talks in Switzerland, Japan, Croatia, Belgium, and Portugal. His carefully designed methods for studying implicit learning have been applied in laboratories at other universities that study language impairment, sleep disorder, and autism. Howard supported his research with external funding for 36 of his years at the University, serving as principal investigator or co-principal investigator on awards totaling more than $9 million.  He has had a significant impact on students and junior colleagues he has mentored through the years. Howard’s work has significantly advanced our understanding of cognitive aging while bringing international recognition to his research and to the University.

Marc Sebrechts, chair of the Department of Psychology, accepted the award for Howard, who was unable to attend the ceremony. Reading a statement on behalf of Howard, Sebrechts said CUA has been a “stimulating and productive place to work… No one succeeds alone.” In his statement, Howard acknowledged the support and encouragement of his collaborators, and the many students he has taught and who have made him proud to be their “academic parent.”