Virginia “Ginny” Faus P’10, instructor in chemistry and the Edward R. Tinker Chair, is one who doesn’t like to be in the limelight. But in May, the lifelong teacher accepted the 2021 Lufkin Prize on a virtual stage, when she spoke in a pre-recorded video shared with the Hotchkiss community.
The annual prize, established by Dan Lufkin ’49, P’80,’82,’88,’23, honors “faculty members of character, commitment and skill who serve as role models to Hotchkiss students.” Lufkin’s goal in creating the prize was to recognize those who “consistently demonstrate excellence and strong moral leadership through teaching, advising, coaching, and overall service to the community.”
In the video ceremony, Head of School Craig Bradley said, “Ginny Faus stands out for her dedication to community and her humility. When she was hired, Ms. Sam Coughlin, dean of faculty at the time, wrote to Ginny, ‘I have a feeling you have the sort of cheerful disposition that allows you to keep saying ‘yes’ to other people’s requests for help.’ Dean Coughlin was spot-on.
“Ginny’s contributions are vast. They are a collection of moments -- Ginny sees opportunities to contribute, and that is exactly what she does. She is always ready to offer extra help to students; her care for her advisees is extraordinary; and she is always ready to guide new colleagues as they become acclimated to Hotchkiss. She is the first person to offer assistance for a community member. Ginny leads by example on a daily basis and in all of her actions, and the results of her attention to others are profound.”
Calling the award “an honor and privilege,” Faus thanked Lufkin for his generosity. She also thanked her Science Department colleagues, especially her fellow chemistry teachers, and her husband, Brad Faus, instructor in art, director of the art program, and holder of the Marie S. Tinker Chair, and her family. In her 37-year career at Hotchkiss, she has also coached swimming and worked in the Admissions Office as an interviewer, in place of coaching, in the years when her children, Jamie and Cady, were in grade school. Currently, she teaches Honors Chemistry and Chemistry 250.
“I’ve always taught – even during my sabbatical year,” she says. “I like teaching too much to ever give it up. I would miss the kids too much. I came from a long line of teachers, and I was raised to believe that it was very important,” she said.
In her remarks, Faus expressed gratitude for two inspirational teachers in her life – her grandfather, Ralph Tyson, and her father, Robert. They both became doctors and taught medicine. But Ralph Tyson, born in 1888, the youngest of eight children, had to forge his own path to education, one that he carved out through ingenuity and striving. Her grandfather received a common school diploma at 14, the free public schooling offered in the U.S. at that time, but his Pennsylvania township could not afford a high school to educate the children. He worked 10-hour days as a cabinetmaker and studied at night, eventually graduating from high school. Determined to continue his education, he worked in a one-room country schoolhouse, where he taught 55 students from ages six to 17. By age 22, he had earned enough money to pay for college and in 1915 received his M.D. After serving in World War I, he began practice as a pediatrician and taught pediatrics at Temple University. His son followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a surgeon and professor of surgery at Temple and serving the surrounding urban community.
Faus’s chemistry professor during her first year at Hobart and William Smith College was another formidable influence. “Charles Barton had muscular dystrophy and was wheelchair-bound. This did not stop him from leading a meaningful and productive life. Professor Barton could not write on the board. Some of you can imagine how challenging it would be to solve stoichiometry problems or to learn to draw Lewis structures without seeing the work written on the board. I had to learn how to listen carefully.”
“We were solving complex problems by listening and taking notes,” she said later. “You’d miss an important detail if you weren’t listening. It was all discussion about the problems.”
In these three-plus decades at Hotchkiss, she’s refined how she teaches her students. “I want them to be willing to take risks in the classroom. I want them to be able to look at a problem that they haven’t seen before and be able to sit down and work at it, and try to come to a solution. I don’t care whether they give me the right answer or the wrong answer.
“I think that sometimes you learn more from a wrong answer than you do from a right answer. There are just so many more things you can discuss – you know, ‘Why is it wrong? Why doesn’t it make sense? What predictions can you make based on the patterns that you see? Yes, there are going to be exceptions, but what I want you to recognize are the patterns.’”
As an adviser, Faus has a caring nature. Billy Meneses ’22 says, “My prep year, I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. Faus as a teacher, which is how I decided to switch into her advisory two months into the school year. At Hotchkiss, she is a parent away from home, and she understands my life on campus in a way that my parents, who speak Spanish, are not always aware of. She has been the best part of my Hotchkiss experience, and the most genuinely kind person I have ever met. I can only hope that once I leave Hotchkiss, I will be able to find someone who exhibits the same amount of empathy and kind-heartedness in every aspect of their being.”