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Lifetime Recognition for Two...Earned by One

Thursday, August 20 2015 12:00am

Management Chair and Professor Gary Coombs recognized with two lifetime achievement awards

By Brianna Wilson

Winning a lifetime award is, well, an achievement of a lifetime. Yet Ohio University’s College of Business’s Gary Coombs, chair of the Management Department, just won two such awards—in the same day.

Gary was the first person he can remember to be twice recognized at a single OBTS ceremony, he said, “Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed, but it feels wonderful to be recognized by people I really respect and [by] an organization whose values I really appreciate.”

Gary attended his first OBTS conference in 1989 as a doctoral student, and has been an integral part of the organization ever since. A two-time board member, he also served as an Associate Editor of OBTS’ Journal of Management Education and co-editor of a special issue focused on problem-based learning—in addition to serving on several committees.

Meanwhile, the organization became another “professional home” for Gary. “Here, there were all people who share a passion for teaching and who want to focus on learning,” he said.

His involvement paid off, as he became the eighteenth ever OBTS Fellow. Sometimes referred to as the “sages of the society”, new members are chosen by the existing fellows. Criteria include commitment, contribution, and long-term involvement with the Society. 

Gary Coombs David Bradford Bradford Outstanding Educator Award

Gary also received the organization’s highest annual award, The David L. Bradford Outstanding Educator Award. It recognizes educators with consistent achievement in teaching and learning excellence throughout their lifetime. Awardees show strong dedication, commitment, and contribution to excellence and have impacted both the Society and the larger field.

“It comes as no surprise that Gary was recognized for his excellence,” said Hugh Sherman, dean of the College of Business. “He is a leader in the College, and a shining example of our mission to provide a transformational learning experience for our students.”

But Gary is more than just successful. He’s humble, too. As he explained his recent awards, he focused not on himself, but on OBTS, his students, and his peers.  

“The dean and others have made effective teaching a core value here, and because of that, the College has a really strong group of effective teachers,” Gary explained.

Wondering what makes an effective teacher? Gary had some great insights—some of which he learned through OBTS. At one OBTS conference, he attended a session by a management professor and a magician, who asked educators a crucial question: “That’s a great trick, but does it fit in your [teaching] act?” Gary went on to explain that, to really be effective, educators must learn to pick the techniques that work best for them, and focus on those instead of trying all of the techniques. For instance, he doesn’t use case studies, because they aren’t his “best tricks”.

Perhaps more importantly, an effective teacher is focused on his or her students. “You have to connect with students and demonstrate that you really care about their learning,” said Gary. “You have to be fair in the way you treat them, and provide them with feedback. Most of all, you have to be human. You can’t pretend that you’re some God-like person pouring knowledge on them.”

These teaching methods are effective and resonate with students. Gary is so well liked by students that they nominated him for Ohio University’s University Professor award, which he received in 2014.

“Gary’s commitment to his student is truly exemplary,” said Meaghan Fair, a senior marketing major. “He takes a direct interest in his students. He seems to really enjoy one-on-one meetings and he’s never too busy to offer a helping hand.”