Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-01-27

A Samford University faculty member who is considered one of the school's "must-have" professors has been honored for his exceptional influence in the classroom.

Dr. Chris Metress received the George Macon Memorial Award during the opening convocation of the spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 27. The award goes annually to a faculty member who, through outstanding performance as a teacher, counselor and friend to students, demonstrates the ability to inspire students to greatness.

Metress, who has been described as "brilliant, brilliant, brilliant" by students in his English classes, "embodies the spirit of Samford University," said Samford provost and executive vice president Dr. Brad Creed in presenting Metress the silver tray and $1,000 check.

An English professor at Samford since 1993, Metress was named inaugural director of the school's innovative new University Fellows program in 2008.

A specialist in American literature, film noir and southern literature, Metress is the author of many essays and reviews, and three books. His 2002 book, The Lynching of Emmett Till, was a university press bestseller that has been featured in national news stories and broadcasts. In 2003, the Association of American University Presses named the book among its "Best Books for Understanding Race Relations in the U.S."

Metress holds a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's University and master's and Ph.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University.

During his convocation address, Dr. Creed urged students to commit to doing their best as they mature during what promises to be challenging times.

As members of the millennial generation, he said, they are described by some as special, sheltered, confident, positive, altruistic and happy to reach out to others, but are also labeled as the "dumbest generation" by doubters.

If they are to become the "hero generation" that some predictors say, today's students will need to overcome adversities that won't be in short supply, said Creed.

Creed believes, however, that understanding generations is best done retrospectively. The Greatest Generation, for example, didn't earn the label until many years after it fought in World War II. "The route to earning respect took them through difficulties," he said, adding that lurking somewhere on this generation's horizon is its own Pearl Harbor or 9-11.

"As you mature, commit yourselves to doing your best. Understand the times in which you live. Move toward the light, even when you must squint," said Creed, urging the students to keep perspective, a sense of humor and their wits.

"Today there is a need for leaders who can inspire confidence. Have faith in God, and build for the next generation. Do something to leave the world a better place."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.