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Bethel College cites science educator for distinguished achievement

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Awards Committee of the Bethel College Alumni Association has named Roy D. Unruh, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Hesston, as the winner of the 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award.

Unruh is a 1957 graduate of Bethel College with a B.A. in natural science and a minor in education. He earned an M.A. in secondary education from the University of Minnesota in 1966 and an Ed.D. in science education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1978.

He has served as a science and mathematics educator at the secondary and university levels. He taught science and mathematics at Pretty Prairie and McPherson High Schools from 1957-67. While at the University of Northern Iowa, 1967-2001, he taught physics and was involved in science education. In addition to his teaching responsibilities during those years, Unruh was awarded more than 20 grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Education for improving science instruction at the elementary and secondary school levels.

From 1970-74, Unruh directed a program to implement a curriculum called Project Physics in 100 school systems in Iowa. From 1974-76, he directed a program to assist 50 school systems in implementing the Intermediate Science Curriculum Study for Iowa junior high schools. In those same years, he also directed programs to assist seven school systems in implementing an NSF-developed curriculum, Elementary Science Study, for selected Iowa elementary schools. These implementation programs included several weeks of workshops with teachers to teach them the activities, teaching strategies and use of materials with each of these projects.

Unruh developed the Physics Discovery Series, an eight-program set of interactive software for IBM. From 1991-95, he directed the NASA Space Science Workshops for teachers and high school students as well as the NSF-funded Young Scholars Program: Early Alert for women and minority students in physics and math.

In 1988, the Iowa State Science Consultant contacted Unruh about the threat of physics being dropped from some small high school course offerings because of low enrollment in physics classes. Unruh chaired the Iowa Physics Task Force to address this issue, which stimulated the development of a high school physics curriculum called Physics Resources and Instructional Strategies for Motivating Students (PRISMS).

The Iowa legislature, the NSF and the Department of Education funded the development of a reform-based curriculum that featured guided inquiry. Three distinct types of activities – exploration, concept development and application – present students with problems that engage them in scientific inquiry and call them to apply their observations to the concepts being introduced and to real-life applications. In the exploration activities, students make predictions and observations and discover patterns and relationships. The concept development activities provide opportunities for students to develop concepts within the context of what they have observed. The application activities provide students with a means to apply their understanding of concepts to new situations and real-life problems.

The Department of Education identified the PRISMS program as an exemplary educational curriculum. With NSF and DE support, one physics teacher from each state was educated at the University of Northern Iowa to become a workshop leader who could assist other physics teachers in implementing the PRISMS curriculum. More than 2,000 teachers in the United States have received workshop instruction for implementing PRISMS learning cycles.

Unruh has given more than 100 presentations and workshops in science education throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, American Samoa, Taiwan, China and Russia.

Among Unruh’s honors is the University of Northern Colorado Centennial Alumni Hall of Fame Award, given to 100 graduates of the university over its 100-year history. He also received the Iowa Science Teachers Outstanding Service Award and the Iowa State Board of Regents Award for Faculty Excellence.

Unruh has been active in the South Waterloo (Iowa) Church of the Brethren congregation and in the Northern District of the Church of the Brethren in various leadership capacities, including board chair and moderator. He also served a five-year term with the Church of the Brethren General Board and was a representative of this board to the American Baptist Conference General Board. He has conducted workshops on “Worshipful Work,” to help congregations transform their church boards into spiritual leaders and to guide congregations in the process of spiritual discernment in decision-making. Unruh participated in a two-week Faith Expedition to southern Sudan in 2002.

Unruh married Delores Carlson ’53 and they had two daughters, Sherilyn ’78 and Joni. Delores was killed in a car-pedestrian accident in McPherson in 1963. He married Sara Suderman ’64 and they had a daughter and son, Marcia and Brian. Sara was killed in a bicycle accident in Cedar Falls in 2001. Unruh has 11 grandchildren and two great-granddaughters. He is married to Mildred Martens-Unruh and they currently live in Cedar Falls and Hesston.

The Distinguished Achievement Award acknowledges character and citizenship, achievement in a chosen profession or vocation, and work of benefit to humanity. Unruh will receive the award at the Bethel College Alumni Association annual Alumni Banquet at 6 p.m., Saturday, May 19, in Memorial Hall. For reservations, contact Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, (316) 284-5205.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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