Brown faculty confers highest honor on public health, dance scholars and educators

By Jill Kimball and Corrie Pikul

At the University’s Commencement 2021 celebration, the Brown faculty presented their peers Vincent Mor and Julie Strandberg with Rosenberger Medals of Honor, awarded just 33 times in more than a century.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Vincent Mor and Julie Strandberg, two longtime Brown faculty members who are accomplished scholars and educators, were awarded Susan Colver Rosenberger Medals of Honor during the University’s 253rd Commencement ceremonies on Sunday, May 2.

The medal is the highest honor the Brown University faculty can bestow, having been awarded just 33 times since its establishment in 1919. Among the past honorees are Nobel laureates, University presidents and chancellors, pioneering Brown faculty and esteemed public servants.

Faculty Executive Committee Chair Johanna Hanink, an associate professor of classics, presented the medals to Mor, a professor of health services, policy and practice, and Strandberg, a distinguished senior lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies, and read citations on behalf of the full Brown faculty.

Mor was recognized for the “stunning impact” of his service, leadership and research over four decades at Brown, as well as for his devotion to the health and well-being of individuals and to the public good. In citing his contributions to the University, the faculty noted his role in envisioning and helping to launch Brown’s School of Public Health and then described another dimension of his influence:

“Professional success has always been matched, or perhaps even eclipsed, by the lasting impact recounted through so many personal anecdotes — about an act of kindness, about generosity with your time as a colleague and mentor, about your infectious enthusiasm and commitment to instilling others with the confidence to succeed,” Hanink read from the citation.

Mor joined Brown in 1981 as an assistant professor in what was then the Department of Community Health. From 1996 to 2010, he served as the fifth and last chair of that department, helping to build the infrastructure for what would eventually serve as the foundation for the School of Public Health. A longtime advocate for vulnerable elders, Mor directed the Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research at Brown for 10 years, and he has been principal investigator of more than 40 National Institutes of Health-funded grants focused on the uses and outcomes of health services by frail and chronically ill people. He is the co-leader of a collaborative research incubator to support trials across the nation aimed at improving care for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. During the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of the urgency of his research, Mor and his team were awarded a supplemental grant to identify and monitor the adverse health impacts of COVID-19 vaccination in elderly nursing home residents. 

Mor said before Sunday’s ceremony that it’s a deep honor to receive the award with Strandberg and hopes that their separate efforts at building significant programs at Brown will have lasting value: “What we’ve built, in our respective fields, lays the groundwork for future scholarship and societal improvement,” he said.

He also said that feelings of gratitude upon learning of the Rosenberger Medal were tempered by bittersweetness, as he reflected on the loss of his mentor, Dr. David Greer, a gerontologist and former dean of Brown’s medical school who died in 2014. 

“Dave brought me to Brown, and for me, he embodied the spirit of the Rosenberger award,” Mor said. “So there’s a bit of loneliness around the fact that he’s not here today to share this moment with me.”

In awarding Strandberg, who founded the University’s dance program a half-century ago, the faculty cited her tireless community engagement efforts and willingness to transcend traditional boundaries in teaching.

“It is your work as teacher, artist, scholar, and your ongoing engagement with the community, that rises to the level of exceptional,” Hanink read from the citation. “For over 50 years, you have epitomized the mission of Brown University and remained an example of individuality, exploration and integration of knowledge across disciplines. You have provided students with meaningful, formative and influential experiences, and they have carried those lessons into all walks of life.”

Strandberg began teaching dance in a converted dormitory lounge at Brown’s Pembroke College in 1969. For more than a decade, she was the only dance instructor at the University; eventually, under her leadership, dance grew to become its own program within the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. Current students and several generations of alumni have praised Strandberg for her inclusive approach to dance, which is often viewed purely as a competitive pursuit. Together with a fellow dancer and Brown alumna, Strandberg co-founded Artists and Scientists as Partners, an initiative that brings the art of dance to people with neurological disorders and catalyzes new scientific research on the benefits of movement therapy.

The longtime faculty member said it was special to receive the Rosenberger Medal alongside Mor, a close colleague.

“My current work is centered on arts, healing and community engagement, so it is particularly meaningful for me to receive this award with Vincent Mor, one of the founders of the Department of Public Health’s graduate program,” she said.

Mor is just one among a long list of faculty from across the University with whom Strandberg has worked over the years. She said she was honored that her fellow faculty members had chosen to recognize those cross-disciplinary partnerships.

“I began teaching dance… the same year that the Open Curriculum was adopted,” she said. “In many ways, it was a new birth for the University and a new birth for me. Because of the Open Curriculum — which freed both students and faculty to chart new waters and forge new partnerships — interdisciplinarity has become a defining element of a Brown education.”

Full text of the citations

Vincent Mor
Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice

For your essential role in adding a new dimension to Brown University, one that has and will continue to improve the public welfare, the Brown University Faculty awards you the highest honor it can bestow: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor.

Having arrived at Brown in 1981, you are known for the stunning impact of your service, leadership, and research at this university — not only on its graduate and undergraduate public health training and research programs, but also on Brown’s reputation nationally and internationally. You have been described as a tireless advocate for vulnerable elders, as prolific, effective, and joyous in the pursuit of better care for older Americans.

Your contributions to Brown — development of undergraduate and graduate educational programs, undergraduate teaching, graduate student mentoring, recruiting and supporting postdocs and junior faculty, launching new academic departments, envisioning and helping to launch a School of Public Health — are accomplishment enough. However, the professional success has always been matched, or perhaps even eclipsed, by the lasting impact recounted through so many personal anecdotes — about an act of kindness, about generosity with your time as a colleague and mentor, about your infectious enthusiasm and commitment to instilling others with the confidence to succeed.

In a year that has nurtured a deeper understanding of public health and appreciation for its practitioners, it is especially appropriate to present you with this award. With admiration and gratitude, the Brown University Faculty presents you with the Rosenberger Medal. It is our acknowledgement of your dedication to scholarship, your devotion to individuals, and to the public good.

Julie Adams Strandberg
Distinguished Senior Lecturer in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

With gratitude for your presence at Brown for over five decades, the Brown University Faculty awards you the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor.

It is only under exceptional circumstances that the Rosenberger Medal has been awarded to persons still actively engaged in the affairs of Brown University. It is your work as teacher, artist, scholar, and your ongoing engagement with the community, that rises to the level of exceptional. For over fifty years you have epitomized the mission of Brown University and remained an example of individuality, exploration, and integration of knowledge across disciplines. You have provided students with meaningful, formative, and influential experiences, and they have carried those lessons into all walks of life.

In 1969, the same year as the Open Curriculum was established, you founded the Brown Dance Program in the women’s Physical Education Department of Pembroke College​. Now, over five decades later, Brown boasts a sizable dance faculty, an expanded dance curriculum, and a dance track within the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies (TAPS). All of this came from the seed that you planted a half-century ago, and have cultivated and grown ever since.

Your devotion to rigor and excellence, your communication, empathy, and your pivotal role in elevating the arts as a whole at Brown, have earned the highest honor that the Faculty can bestow.

About the Rosenberger Medal

The Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor is awarded through the Susan Colver Rosenberger Fund, established by Jesse L. Rosenberger in 1919 as a memorial to his wife, the daughter of Charles K. Colver, Class of 1842. His gift provided that from time to time a medal should be awarded for “specially notable or beneficial achievement.”

Previous recipients include, among others, Thomas Tisch, chancellor emeritus of the Brown Corporation; Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus of engineering; Brown physicist and Nobel Laureate Leon Cooper; Sheila Blumstein, professor emerita of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences and former interim president of Brown; Theodore Francis Green, former governor and senator from Rhode Island; Brown presidents Ruth J. Simmons, Vartan Gregorian, Howard R. Swearer and Henry M. Wriston; Charles Evans Hughes, former chief justice of the United States; Artemis A.W. Joukowsky, chancellor emeritus, and Martha Sharp Joukowsky, professor emerita; Alexander Meiklejohn, educator and Amherst College president; Sen. Claiborne Pell, the longest-serving U.S. senator in Rhode Island history; Stephen Robert, the 19th chancellor of Brown University; John D. Rockefeller Jr.; Thomas J. Watson Jr., former vice chancellor; and Mary Emma Woolley, educator and Mt. Holyoke president.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts