Professors Christopher Hein and Matthew Kirwan of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have been selected as recipients of 2018 Plumeri Awards for Faculty Excellence at the College of William & Mary.
The eponymous award was established in 2009 with a generous gift from Joseph J. Plumeri II ’66, D.P.S. ’11. Each year, the awards recognize 20 W&M faculty members for outstanding achievements in teaching, research, and service. Each recipient receives $10,000, which they can use during the course of two years to fund summer salaries, research, or other costs associated with scholarly endeavors. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Plumeri Awards program.
“For 10 years, the Plumeri Awards have rewarded many of our strongest faculty, who stand at the vanguard of academic inquiry, and recipients have invariably expressed their gratitude for this award that has made a huge difference in their teaching and research, “ said Provost Michael Halleran during the awards ceremony.
Plumeri established the award to encourage exceptional faculty members to pursue their research interests and further challenge their students. Over the last decade, 170 professors have benefited from this generosity, including 23 from VIMS.
“When I was a William & Mary student, my professors instilled in me the need to think creatively, ask difficult questions and above all, persist in the face of adversity,” said Plumeri. “I am thrilled to honor those professors whose creativity and passion inspire the entire William & Mary community.”
VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says the Plumeri Awards “are a wonderful catalyst that gives our faculty flexibility to involve students in innovative field and classroom activities. We deeply appreciate Mr. Plumeri’s generosity and foresight in supporting Chris and Matt this year and our award winners in previous years as well.”
Plumeri selectees at VIMS have used their award to engage students in seagrass monitoring and restoration, international fisheries management, field studies of polar climate change and food-webs, and modeling of storm-surge flooding and sediment dynamics, among many other projects.
Hein, an assistant professor, has excelled in teaching and mentoring since joining the VIMS faculty in 2013. His courses— including Fundamentals of Marine Geology, Principles of Geological Oceanography, Rivers: Processes and Problems, and Coastal Evolution—have consistently had high undergraduate enrollment and outstanding student evaluations. His excellence in teaching has previously been recognized with W&M’s Alumni Fellowship Award and the VIMS Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award.
Hein’s research focuses on the links between climate change, river sediments, and the global carbon cycle. He and his students study how past changes in climate and sea-level affect the flow of river and nearshore sediments within and through the coastal zone, and how barrier-island environments respond to changes in sea level and sediment supply.
Hein has also been an exceedingly strong contributor to professional and advisory services. He has served as a peer-reviewer for 15 different academic journals, as a mail-in reviewer for 7 funding groups, and on 2 National Science Foundation review panels. He holds a doctorate from Boston University.
Kirwan is a W&M alum (’02) who joined the VIMS faculty in 2013, where he leads an internationally recognized research and education program devoted to understanding the dynamics of coastal landscapes. His research combines geomorphology and ecology to investigate the response of wetlands to sea-level rise and human impacts, and has led to 40 peer-reviewed publications in leading scientific journals.
In 2017, Kirwan received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, NSF’s most prestigious award for early career faculty. He also has a strong commitment to fostering excellence in education. His CAREER award supports a pilot program designed to create research experiences for American Indian and community college students from the Chesapeake Bay region; the first of its kind in marine or environmental science.
Kirwan also provides advisory service to land managers and policy makers across the U.S., including a three-year commitment to the Mississippi River diversions project, which is part of the most ambitious environmental restoration project ever proposed. He holds a doctorate from Duke University.
Plumeri, who served as the chairman and CEO of Willis Group Holdings before becoming vice chairman of the First Data Board of Directors in 2014, is a dedicated philanthropist, giving millions to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, among many other organizations. He has long been a steadfast and generous W&M supporter, creating scholarships, building the Plumeri Park baseball facilities, and establishing the W&M/Plumeri Pro-Am Golf Tournament.To learn more about the other recipients of this year’s Plumeri Awards, visit the W&M web pages.