Hicks, Rahauser Chosen for Faculty Teaching Awards

Thursday, September 10, 2020
Tom Rahauser ’74/Eric Hicks

As the academic year begins at Mercersburg Academy, Tom Rahauser ’74, P ’05, ’07, ’12 has been named the 2020-2021 recipient of the Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award, while Eric Hicks P ’16, ’19 is this year’s Zern Excellence in Teaching Award recipient.

The Ammerman Distinguished Teaching Award for Religious and Interdisciplinary Studies was established by Andrew Ammerman ’68 and his mother, the late Josephine Ammerman, to bring recognition to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated outstanding pedagogy in challenging Mercersburg students to address the spiritual, moral, ethical, and artistic dimensions of their lives, or to bring recognition to special religion scholars-in-residence who may be engaged from time to time to accomplish the same purpose.

As a Mercersburg student, Rahauser captained the soccer, basketball, and baseball teams and was awarded the Headmaster’s Prize and the Yale University Aurelian Prize for the Class of 1974. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College, where he majored in Spanish, was captain of the soccer team for two years, and spent eight months studying at the Institute International in Madrid during his junior year. Rahauser holds a master’s from Penn State University. He joined the Mercersburg faculty in 1978 as a Spanish teacher and served as school’s dean of students from 1996 until 2017, as well as its head boys’ soccer coach from 1984 to 1996. (Rahauser returned to the sidelines in fall 2017 as an assistant coach for the boys’ varsity soccer team.) He chairs the Conduct Review Committee. Rahauser and his wife, Director of Counseling Services Susan Rahauser, live in the Wyman House on campus. The Rahauser Counseling Center was dedicated in their honor in 2018.

“If you ever have a bad day or need a pick-me-up, take some time and visit Tom Rahauser’s classroom,” said Julie Maurer ’90, P ’18, ’20, ’22, ’23, associate head of school for school life. “The classroom can barely contain him when he’s teaching. He has to move into the hallway because he has so much energy that he’s sharing with his students. I never visit Tom’s class and leave without a smile on my face.” 

“I’m tremendously honored and humbled by this,” Rahauser said. “For me, it’s been such an inspiring ride across the years because I remembered when I came here I was in awe of the people around me. I felt like a freshman senator—I should be seen and not heard, and that was a good way for me to begin, but I realized I was being inspired by really great people. Now, 40 some years in, I continue to be inspired and motivated by the younger teachers. I’m so grateful I get the opportunity to get to relate and connect with young people.”

The Zern Excellence in Teaching Award was established by Judy and Allen Zern ’61 for annual presentation to a faculty member or members, with special consideration given to teachers in the math or science department.

Hicks has held numerous positions at Mercersburg in addition to his duties in the science classroom, including head boys’ tennis coach (since 1995), head girls’ tennis coach (since 2019), registrar (2000-2019), associate academic dean (2014-2015), and academic dean (2015-2019). He also served as the school’s first director of dormitories from 2009 to 2014. Hicks’ scientific interests fall most heavily in the fields of evolutionary biology, molecular biology, and field ornithology. The latter was the subject of his master’s thesis, titled “Composition and Dynamics of Bird Communities at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.” Hicks has an affinity for computers and software, and creates animations and computer simulations to help his biology students better understand biological concepts. He played soccer and tennis at the College of Wooster, earned a master’s from Wesleyan University, and is a past recipient of Mercersburg’s James M. Johnston Foundation Chair. Hicks holds the school’s Robert R. Black Chair, and his wife, Renee, is a fellow member of the school’s science faculty. 

“Eric is the very embodiment of excellence in teaching,” Maurer said. “I learned every day how to be better from Eric. He never stops trying to improve the school and what he’s doing. He cares so deeply and makes such natural connections with his students. We talk a lot about how our kids want to be known and loved. I can’t think of anyone who knows and loves our kids more than he does. He’s a truly inspirational teacher. I couldn’t be more thankful to honor him.” 

“I had the pleasure of being seated next to the Zerns at a strategic planning event many years ago, and I saw firsthand how sharp Allen Zern is and I also witnessed how much love he and the other Regents have for Mercersburg,” Hicks said. “That was moving for me at the time as a fairly new faculty member. Hopefully being attached to the Zern Award for a year is enough time for some of Allen’s smarts and logical thinking to diffuse into me. Thank you for this honor.”