The Notable UT Woman Award recognizes a female faculty or staff member, student, or alumna whose accomplishments bring great distinction to the university.
For more than 30 years, Professor of English Mary Papke has held a strong commitment to women’s issues, evidenced in her scholarship, teaching, mentorship, and service. As a scholar of American literary naturalism, Papke has long been an important advocate for feminist theory and the contributions of women writers. She has also served the university in administrative positions, including president of the Faculty Senate, chair of the Commission for Women, and director of Graduate Studies, and as a member of the Commission for Blacks, the Commission for LGBT People, the Women’s Studies Committee, and the Women’s Studies program. She was co-director of the effort that led to the development and implementation of the Ready for the World initiative. In the Department of English, Papke designed the first graduate course in feminist studies and mentored many students who have since become tenure-track professors and published scholars. She has long been an instrumental figure in the advancement of diversity at UT, insisting on its importance at a time when voices such as hers were few and far between.
Professor Bonnie Ownley is admired for her pursuit of excellence in plant pathology as well as her dedication to faculty governance. She is credited with revitalizing the Department of Ecology and Plant Pathology in the UT Institute of Agriculture after the department head’s death in 2012, working with the interim head to restore and advance faculty governance and administrative procedures. As the department’s current director of graduate studies, she has helped develop new ways to assess graduate student applications and measure student progress. She was also essential in starting a new PhD program. Ownley served as a “thoughtful, considerate, and articulate” president of the Faculty Senate last year. She is well respected in her field of plant pathology and runs one of the premier programs in diseases of switchgrass, a biofuel plant, and plant pathogens of organically produced vegetables. As one nominator wrote, Ownley “is a good example of a woman who has improved the standing of not only women faculty members, but also all of those who are underrepresented among the faculty and administrator ranks.”