Dr. Arrel Toews, professor in the Department of Biochemisty and Biophysics and a thirty-year veteran teacher in the UNC School of Medicine, delivered a heartfelt speech on teaching and life at the 2009 Whitehead Lecture and Awards Ceremony.
The annual lecture honors Dr. Richard Whitehead, who served as dean from 1890 to 1905. Being selected as the Whitehead lecturer is one of the highest honors bestowed upon professors during their time at UNC, and has a special significance because the lecturer is selected by the student body each year. The awards program which followed also honored winners selected by students.
Dr. William McLendon, Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Lab Medicine, said, “It is a wonderful occasion. This was an important event in the 1950s and it’s good to see that it is still happening. The class size was much smaller then. You can see why he is so appreciated by the students. He is the rare talent to take complex subjects and make them interesting.”
Dr. Toews’ lecture moved from Aristotle’s observation “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous,” to stories from his childhood in rural Oklahoma raising sheep and doing endless chores, to the rewards of a career in teaching.
Mustafa Springston, a second-year medical student, said, “I loved him as a professor. I was excited to hear him talk. He is always entertaining and a joy to listen to. He was one of the best lecturers of first year.” Tyler Jones, also a second-year medical student, nodded in agreement. Jones said, “He’s a one-of-a-kind guy, he really made the non-clinical years.”
Dr. Toews closed his lecture by inviting the packed auditorium to stand and recite the 4-H pledge, which was followed minutes later by a standing ovation.