Northeastern Junior College’s newest graduates honored three outstanding faculty members who had a great impact on their lives during last week’s commencement ceremony. The Joel E. Mack Award was presented to Emily Barkey, Justina McCracken and Lee Lippstrew.
Presenting the awards were the 2022-23 Associated Student Government officers, Philip Ruch, president; Joao Fonseca, first vice president; and Audrey Glynn, second vice president.
Started in 1983, the Joel E. Mack Award honors the memory of Joel Evan Mack, a former NJC student. Originally from Lyons, Mack was returning back to Sterling after a weekend off campus when he stopped on Interstate 76 to help two young men who appeared to be having car trouble. They murdered him in what can only be described as a senseless act of violence.
Because Mack spoke highly of his instructors at NJC, his family, in cooperation with the ASG, began giving this annual award to recognize outstanding teachers.
The award is chosen by the students. All full-time instructors are eligible. Once an instructor receives the award they are not eligible to receive the award again for three years.
Barkey, an agriculture business management professor, is well known for her exceptional ability to establish and nurture personal connections with all of her students, both in and out of the classroom. She started teaching at NJC as a part-time instructor in the fall of 2016 and went full-time in 2017. She graduated from Kansas State University with a master’s degree in agricultural economics and went on to run her family’s farm and ranch operation.
Barkey plays a significant role in the Aggies Club and has provided considerable support to the Collegiate Farm Bureau Club this past year. She is also the NJC coordinator for the Premier Farmer Credit Student Board and has played a vital role in planning NJC’s partnership with Colorado State University to offer a four-year degree program in agricultural business at NJC.
“Her department recognizes and appreciates her deep connection and passion for production agriculture. Students hold her in high esteem for her extensive knowledge and education in the courses that she teaches. Her teaching genuinely inspires a love for learning about agriculture among her students,” Glynn said.
McCracken, a biology professor was described as an extremely hard-working teacher with remarkable knowledge, a positive personality, and above it all, an outstanding mom. A local from Sterling, she graduated from CSU in 1998 with a degree in biology with an emphasis in anatomy and physiology, and later, in 2005, she earned a biomedical science master’s degree from CSU. Shortly after that, she came to NJC, where she has been a teacher for almost two decades.
She talks proudly of her two sons and daughter with joy, making all students feel comfortable, safe and motivated. Her oldest son proudly serves the country as an Army Ranger in Louisiana and has already been deployed once to Kuwait, her youngest son plays football at Doane University and is studying computer science and her daughter is a student-athlete in high school.
“Her sons and daughter portray her excellence as a person,” Fonseca said.
He went on to point out that she “works exceedingly hard, spending countless hours on campus, including weekends, making sure that the students thrive with the best experience. As she said herself, ‘don’t regret making a decision because you were afraid of failure, there’s a lot of time left in life.’”
Lippstew, instrumental and music recording professor, is known for bringing a positive and engaging attitude to the classroom every day. Both his students and work studies described him as insightful, caring and a joy to learn from.
“This teacher has a way of making every class period both interactive and interesting. No matter the circumstances, even if he’s searching for a lost ring on a Saturday morning, this instructor is willing and happy to partake in conversation with students about any subject matter or simply suggest a new song to listen to. Through his dedication to student success, he has made an impact on all aspects of his department, ranging from private lessons, concert band, managing the NJC recording studio and everyone’s favorite music appreciation class. His students, work studies, the Broadcasting Club, members of the concert band and even his personal band members love and appreciate (him),” Fonseca said.