Video: Montgomery honored with Lifetime Achievement award

Dr. Royce Montgomery, professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, received the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the UNC School of Medicine's Academy of Educators earlier this year.

A Lifetime of Inspiring Students

Dr. Royce Montgomery’s teaching style emulates his refurbished 69 candy-apple red Mustang – combining classic style with passion and energy.  Dr. Montgomery’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Educators’ Evening of Scholarships on May 20, confirms what his students and colleagues have known for years:

“He has his own style of teaching,” said former student Scott Owens, “he really knows his stuff and does a great job of making you really excited to come to class.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is for a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching and mentoring medical students for 10 years or more. Dr. Montgomery has been rallying praise since the beginning of his teaching career at the UNC School of Medicine in 1965.

“Through the years Dr. Royce Montgomery has distinguished himself both in the School of Medicine and in the School of Dentistry as the consummate teacher!” said Edward
A. Norfleet, M.D., a former student and current colleague in a 1996 letter of recommendation. “His excellence in teaching continues to endure over generations of students…I have been impressed not only with his scholarly approach to teaching, but also the dignity, professionalism and gentleman like way he conducts his interaction with his students and colleagues.”

Dr. Montgomery characterizes his lectures as, “matching their enthusiasm for learning with my enthusiasm for teaching.”  

When a colleague once asked him how many times he had given a certain lecture, he said, “Never,” noting the methods of his first graduate school professor and teaching inspiration, Robert J. Johnson, who told him that a good teacher knows the information well enough to never use notes.  

Dr. Montgomery further expounded on this method and learned to adapt his materials and methods to match the unique audience he found in each class by constantly updating slides and restructuring lectures.

In creating this match of enthusiasm, Dr. Montgomery sets high standards for his students and himself, so when a student fails Montgomery feels some responsibility.

“My class is designed to stimulate and encourage learning, and therefore failures tend to reflect a flaw in the system,” explained Dr. Montgomery.

If he feels the mismatch is from a lack of enthusiasm by the students, he will strive to nurture them. Sometimes this is done by trading kindness and compassion for stern discipline, which is sometimes met with disgruntlement until students realize the reward of meeting those requirements.

Dr. Montgomery explained how a group of students came into his class late on multiple occasions. After the second offense the students were chastised. However, these students began arriving in a timely manner and rewarded Dr. Montgomery at the end of the year with a caricature figurine of a sheriff dawning a cowboy hat, cigar and shotgun with the inscription, “Attitudes adjusted…no charge.”

Dr. Montgomery has received 14 teaching awards throughout his career. The first came from the dental class of 1974. As freshmen they did not approve of Dr. Montgomery’s teaching methods – feeling it demanded too much of their study time – but by their graduation, they gave Dr. Montgomery the Richard F. Hunt Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching despite him not being a faculty member of the Dental School.

Dr. Montgomery has also had the opportunity to inspire younger students to combine their love of teaching with medicine through anatomy lectures for high school students.

“You most certainly have made a lasting and positive impression on her;” wrote Dr. Richard Wagner, in a thank you letter after his high school daughter attended Dr. Montgomery’s class, “for you taught her dissection and human anatomy in a manner so professional and so impressive that she has been inspired to become an instructor of anatomy for dental and medical students.” Since, his daughter has graduated from UNC’s Dental School.

From the beginning of their careers as students to the end, it seems that Dr. Montgomery impacts the lives of those he teaches,

“Thanks again for making a difference,” wrote former student Amanda Stine in an email to Dr. Montgomery, “ although we are only in the infantile stages of this whole process, you have already made us better doctors.”

So like Dr. Montgomery’s description of his cars reputation, “If my Mustang, rode up beside a new model sports car, all eyes are on my Mustang…” Dr. Montgomery continues to earn respect, awe and endearment from students, colleagues and those he encounters.

For more information about the other Academy of Educators award winners click here.

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