University News

WIU Arts and Sciences Recognize Retirees; Civil Service Awardee

December 18, 2007

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MACOMB, IL - - Retirees of Western Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the recipient of the Civil Service Recognition Service Award were honored at the annual holiday reception Nov. 30.

Retiring are four faculty members: Larry Balsamo, professor and chair of history; Robert Gessner, biology professor; John Mann, English professor; and Richard Rieck, geography professor; and civil service employee Ruth Schoeber, the CAS dean's office budget secretary. Robert Bahr, the chemistry department physical science technician, was honored with the college's 2007 Civil Service Recognition Service Award.

Balsamo, the 1990 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, came to Western in 1967 as a Civil War historian. He established the department's signature event, the annual History Conference which brings together high school and junior high school teachers history teachers along with department faculty and alumni. Balsamo served as department chair since 1999, and during his tenure, the history department was co-recipient of two U.S. Department of Education "Teaching America's History" grants totaling $1.2 million. He also was a member of The Endnotes, the CAS faculty and administrators band.

Gessner, known as "mushroom man" because he specializes in fungi, has been with the biology department since 1978. He is a nationally known expert with more than 15 peer-reviewed professional journal articles, 35 published reviews of publications on the topic of fungi and their products and 70 presentations made at professional meetings. He served as the chair of the biological sciences graduate committee and as a member of the University Graduate Council. Gessner was the adviser for five undergraduate students conducting research in his lab, and he was the major adviser for more than 15 graduate students. More than $150,000 in grants and contracts was secured to support his and his students' research.

Mann, the recipient of the CAS Outstanding Teacher Award in 1995 and the College Award for Outstanding Research in 2004, came to Western in 1971. He also received three National Endowment for the Arts grants and four Illinois Arts Council grants. His specialty lies in American poetry. He has published more than 100 poems in literary magazines and anthologies; and in 2002, Mann received an Illinois Arts Council Poetry Fellowship for his manuscript of 15 poems titled, "Book of Mann."

Rieck, who joined Western's geography department in 1976, was the recipient of the 1997 CAS Outstanding Research Award. He has given more than 70 scholarly presentations and has published nearly 20 journal articles on the glaciated landscapes of the upper Midwest. Recently, he conducted research on the historical geography of the California and Oregon trails. He is currently finishing a book on the Oregon Trail.

Schoeber served the college for more than a decade. She worked with the 15 department secretaries and chairs to assist them with budgetary issues, as well as worked with the staff on the daily budgetary transactions in the dean's office.

Bahr, the chemistry department physical science technician, was honored with the college's 2007 Civil Service Recognition Service Award. He joined Western's staff in 2004 following 31 years as a high school science teacher. His duties include maintaining chemistry teaching labs and stockrooms, including purchasing, receiving and overseeing the safe storage of chemicals and supplies. Among his first duties were reorganizing the chemistry stockrooms and establishing an inventory and maintenance system; safety wash stations and spill control centers on all of the floors; and a waste disposal policy. He also was able to negotiate rates and free shipping from chemical companies for Western. Bahr also helps train chemistry graduate and teaching assistants, serves on the Fine Arts and Arts and Sciences Teacher Education Committee (FAASTEC) committee and helped the chemistry and physics clubs develop the recent magic show, "Swashbuckling Science."

Posted By: Alisha Looney (
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