Shepherd professor is named 2015 West Virginia Professor of the Year

evaniskoA Shepherd University art professor is the 2015 West Virginia Professor of the Year. The Faculty Merit Foundation presented the award to Sonya Evanisko, professor of art and coordinator of the painting program, during a banquet held in the Great Hall of the Culture Center in Charleston on Wednesday, March 30.

Evanisko, who has worked at Shepherd since 1993, teaches courses in painting, drawing, visual thinking skills, and professional practices with an emphasis on empowering students to have successful careers. Evanisko received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Evanisko has taught at Shepherd for 23 years, receiving the University’s Outstanding Academic Advisor Award in 2015. In 1995, she developed the curriculum for and taught the first art business course at Shepherd.

“Professor Evanisko is a consummate teacher of painting and drawing—an innovator in preparing artists for the workplace,” said Dr. Christopher Ames, provost for Shepherd. “She is a superb teacher and recognized as the heart of Shepherd’s studio art program.”

Evanisko has taken a leading role in creating and implementing Shepherd’s nationally recognized art program.

Dow Benedict, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, said the program employs “unique methods to provide students with a high level of professional knowledge in addition to mastery of the skills in art. Their professional development program starts in the student’s first semester and continues to graduation and has served as a model for programs across the nation.”

Evanisko’s work has been exhibited at regional and national exhibitions, including The Cork Gallery at Lincoln Center, New York; Perez Art Museum, Miami, Fla.; Umlauf Sculpture Museum, Austin, Tex.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Wash.; Chicago Loop Alliance; The Millennium Arts Center, Washington, D.C.; The International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Florence, Italy; and many other venues, including the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston, the Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling, the Huntington Museum of Art, and Tamarack in Beckley.

A former student of Evanisko’s, Isabelle Truchon, who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Shepherd in 2012, said she was “personally touched by the professionalism, commitment, and human spirit exemplified every day by Professor Evanisko.”  Truchon feels that Evanisko’s “commitment to education, to her students and to society demonstrates true leadership in her field, and in life.”

Evanisko encourages her students to “put their focus into being the best person they can be for themselves, their friends and families, and their community.”

Evanisko is actively involved in the community throughout the year with a number of projects—most notably the Town Run Garden. Twenty years ago it was a rarely used half-acre space between White and Knutti halls with an old tennis court. With Evanisko’s leadership, it was transformed into a natural woodland community garden that provides a peaceful respite for students and the community, and a place where wildlife may find refuge.

Evanisko considers it an educator’s task to “reach students even when they seem unreachable.”  She acknowledges that “some will struggle, but through simple acts of attention and compassion from educators, students are more likely to find success.”

Each year the Faculty Merit Foundation of West Virginia honors an outstanding faculty member at a West Virginia college or university. The Professor of the Year winner receives a $10,000 cash prize, with smaller awards going to the other finalists. The Professor of the Year award is presented with financial support from Graystone Consulting.