Adams State College
Time, treasure, talent — Dr. John McDaniel has dedicated all three to Adams State College, which will present him with its most prestigious honor, The Billy Adams Award. The emeritus professor of history will receive the award at the college’s annual Donor and Student Recognition Dinner, Nov. 4.
Established in 1971, the Billy Adams Award recognizes those who exhibit the dedication to education shown by the college’s founder and namesake. Billy Adams worked for 30 years to establish the Alamosa college. Adams State Teachers College opened in 1925 to educate teachers for remote, rural areas of Colorado, such as the San Luis Valley.
“I have met only a few people in my higher education career who completely fulfilled the well-worn phrase, ‘A gentleman and a scholar,’” said Adams State College President David Svaldi. “Soon after my arrival at ASC in 1986, I determined that Dr. John McDaniel was a true scholar and a gentleman. John is invariably polite, extremely well read both in his area and generally, and has had a major role in preparing some of ASC’s most successful graduates. Judge Carlos Lucero and Dr. Gary Gallagher come to mind. Doubtless thousands of other, less well known ASC graduates also went on to successful lives and careers after completing classes with John. Dr. John McDaniel, in every way, exemplifies the spirit of ASC’s Founder, Billy Adams.”
McDaniel joined the history faculty in 1967 and devoted the bulk of his academic career to Adams State and its students.
He received his bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in English from Texas Christian University, then studied French culture and civilization at the University of Strasbourg with a Fulbright Grant. McDaniel had begun doctoral work at Harvard, but postponed it to work on John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign; he then worked in the Kennedy administration. Following JFK’s assassination, McDaniel made a change and finished his doctoral work at the University of Texas. He also served as an officer in the Air Force.
In addition to serving on various college committees, McDaniel was head of the Department of History, Government, Philosophy and Foreign Language from 1994-98. Beginning in 2002, he presided over commencement ceremonies as faculty marshal.
He was named emeritus professor in spring of 2007, when he retired after 40 years of teaching history at Adams State. He said of his “richly rewarding” tenure at Adams State: “I am most grateful for the opportunity to have taught so many exceptional students.”
But McDaniel did much more than simply show up and teach. He was committed to continual learning in order to teach each class as a new experience.
“I never teach a class the same way. I can think of no other profession where one can learn as part of one’s responsibilities,” McDaniel said.
Adams State History Professor Ed Crowther, current department head, said McDaniel was a student-centered professor who pushed them “to excel in and out of the classroom.”
Numerous Adams State graduates have benefitted from McDaniel’s mentorship. Mark Lammers, ASC Class of 1980 and 1982, said of his former professor: “He has always been there when I need help and guidance. He is probably the best professor I ever had, including my time in law school.”
Eleven years ago, McDaniel set out to create 30 individual scholarship funds, teaming up with fellow professors and former students. He donated $5,000 to each fund, which was then matched by the donor and the Adams State College Foundation. Today there are not 30, but 40 McDaniel Scholarship Funds, with total endowments in excess of $823,000 that fund half-tuition scholarships.
“It’s a way of honoring the students I have taught in the past, and also of helping students who will come in the future,” McDaniel said.
Six of the scholarship funds are for students in any program, while 14 are restricted to history government majors. There are 11 for aspiring teachers, 4 for English majors, 2 each for music and psychology, and one for business students. Full-time Adams State students at the junior, senior, or graduate level with a 3.0 or better GPA are eligible to apply for the awards.
When he founded the scholarship program, McDaniel said: “Adams State College is more than buildings and books, more than the faculty and administration. It is a common endeavor that has continued since day one, inspiring a free exchange of supportable ideas and a never-ending search for the truth.”
That reverence for higher education and commitment to Adams State have resulted in his receipt of the 2010 Billy Adams Award.