PULLMAN, Wash. — A shared interest and proficiency in teaching–history and bioethics–link the 1997 recipients of Honors Program Faculty Award at Washington State University.
Kathryn Meyer, assistant professor of history, and R. Wes Leid, professor of animal science, were recognized for excellence in teaching in the Honors Program, for contributions and service to Honors students, and for committee work and thesis supervision.
The top 10 percent of the entering freshman class each year–based on high school grade point average, test scores and counselor recommendations–is invited to participate in the WSU Honors Program.
Director Jane Lawrence expects enrollment to be more than 900 students, including 300 freshmen, this fall.
Meyer regularly teaches two classes in Honors–History of the Ancient World (Freshman Honors History) and The Development of Western Civilization. The second course, for juniors and seniors, investigates the history and culture of the Roman Republic from its founding in 509 BC to its collapse in 30 BC. Emphasis is placed on the writings of ancient historians and biographers.
“I love her story-telling approach,” said one of Meyer’s students. “Instead of bombarding us with dry facts and dates, she weaves the details into the story of history. She makes the people and events come alive.”
In lectures and class discussion, Meyer focuses on the development of the Roman constitution, Roman expansion in Italy and the Mediterranean, the roles of women and the lower classes, religion, and the impact of Greek civilization upon the Romans.
“I try to show connections, for example, how modern attitudes have their origins in the Roman World,” Meyer says.
Meyer began teaching at WSU in 1983, en route to completing a master’s degree, 1987, and her doctorate, 1992, in history. She joined the Honors faculty in 1993. She says she enjoys teaching smaller classes and finds Honors students “vital and interested.” They read, come to class prepared and participate.
“They’ll keep the discussion going right out the door, down the hall and out on the mall after class,” she says. “They’re just great.”
This fall, Meyer will supervise a freshman seminar–Ancient History in Modern Media–that she developed.
Leid teaches “Medical Ethics and The Holocaust” or, as he says, “an object lesson when medicine went mad.” In 1991, he began teaching the course evenings on an every other year basis. Because of its popularity, the course has been offered every year for the past several years and, since 1996, every semester.
Leid’s seminar explores the ethics displayed by the medical communities within the countries which constituted the Third Reich between 1933-1945. In particular, the course analyzes how decisions of organized medicine led first to the euthanasia of the physically and mentally impaired, next to the destruction of those who disagreed with these policies, and finally to the annihilation of Jews in Europe.
“This course deserves an A+,” one student said in his written evaluation. “I learned about the Holocaust, but also about my own stance on moral issues and why I believe the way I do.”
Leid’s class is limited to 15 students each semester.
Even on those evenings when he is tired, Leid says he finds class discussion “lively….a refreshing interaction.
“The students are wonderful, a credit to the university.” He notes that many have gone on to graduate school or successful careers in the sciences, medicine and law.
Leid joined the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine faculty in 1980. A developing interest in reproductive immunology and biochemistry led him to switch to the animal sciences department in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics in 1994. He developed the first Honors course in the college.
Meyer and Leid received medallions as winners of the Honors Program Faculty Award. Richard Law, professor of English and director of General Education, and Kirk McMichael, associate professor of chemistry, were inaugural recipients last year.

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