Graves, Snyder Receive History Alumnus Awards

photo of Graves presentation

Eastern Kentucky University’s Department of History has awarded its first Charles D. Whitlock Distinguished History Alumnus Awards to a highly esteemed Madison County schoolteacher and a tactical officer and instructor at West Point.

Maj. Patrick Snyder, a 2004 EKU graduate, received the award during a June 19 ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Presenting the award were Eastern history professors Christiane Taylor, chair of the Department of History, and Thomas Appleton, who nominated Snyder for the award.

In April, Taylor and Appleton surprised Sharon Farthing Graves at Clark-Moores Middle School, where she teaches social studies, with the first of this year’s awards.

Established by the Department of History in 2013 to honor EKU President Whitlock on the occasion of his retirement, the award will be given annually to two graduates – one a history major and one a history teaching major. Whitlock earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from Eastern in 1965 and 1966, respectively. Individuals can self-nominate for the award or be nominated by other alumni, a colleague, history faculty member or others interested in recognizing EKU history alumni. Nominations are screened by an awards committee and then the nominees are voted on by the history faculty. 

Graves, who majored in history and minored in political science, received her bachelor’s degree in 1982, her fifth-year degree in history education in 1992, and her Rank I and sixth-year degree in Library Science in 2002.  The Whitlock Distinguished History Alumnus Award is the sixth teaching excellence award for Graves.  In 2005, she was given the Daughters of the American Revolution Teacher of the Year Award; in 2007, the Ashland Oil/Kentucky Department of Education Teacher Excellence Award; and, in 2009, the Kentucky History Society Award of Merit. In 2012, she was inducted into the Governor Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame, and, in 2013, she was named outstanding teacher of the year by the Kentucky Council of Social Studies.

Shortly after receiving the history alumnus award from EKU, she was named the Gilder-Lehrman Kentucky History Teacher of the Year, increasing her teaching awards to seven.

During the award presentation, Taylor said, “In involving her students in the living history project of the Richmond Battlefield Association…taking a group of students to every presidential inauguration…taking three student groups to Japan…and taking part in a teacher exchange in the Ukraine, Sharon Farthing Graves epitomizes the best in teaching and serves as the ideal role model for our history teaching majors.” 

Richmond native Kevin Presnell, a senior in Eastern’s history program, said of Graves: “She’s the reason I’m going to be a history teacher.”  Presnell, a former student of Graves, will, in fact, do his student teaching under her supervision in Fall 2014.

Joining Taylor and Appleton to present Graves with the alumnus award were history faculty members Jennifer Spock and Mina Yazdani, and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Karin Sehmann.

Snyder, a native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., initially graduated from Eastern’s EMT program in 1996.  After working as an EMT and a two-year stint in the Marine Corps, he returned to Eastern in Spring 2003 as a history major and ROTC candidate.  He graduated with honors and received his commission in May 2004.  Upon graduation, Snyder served in the 108th Artillery Brigade Airborne at Fort Bliss, Texas, and completed overseas tours as a Battalion Commander in Korea in 2007 and Iraq in 2009.  He then returned stateside to serve as a Battalion Commander at Fort Bliss.  In 2011, Snyder attended the Quantico Expeditionary Warfare School and, in 2013, completed his M.A. in organizational psychology at the Teachers’ College of Columbia University. 

In 2013, he began serving as a tactical officer at West Point, a post he will hold through 2015.  Snyder’s appointment as an instructor at West Point is notable in that nearly all West Point instructors outside those teaching traditional academic subjects are academy graduates.  Snyder was promoted to captain in 2007 and became a major on Feb. 1, 2014.

Dr. Brett Morris, director of Admissions at EKU, who previously served as Snyder’s ROTC commander, characterized him as a “highly motivated and focused leader.” 

“Other faculty members had told me ‘you need to make sure Patrick Snyder signs up for one of your classes.’ When that day came, he lived up to his hype,” remarked Appleton.  “Patrick performed as a classroom leader and earned high marks. In the history department and ROTC program, Patrick was known and respected.” 

Both Appleton and Taylor noted that the promise Snyder had shown in the classroom was clearly evident in his career trajectory since leaving EKU and exemplified the institution’s claim that “great journeys begin here.” 

Published on July 02, 2014