The 2012 Branford Price Millar Award was recently presented to Portland State Professor Linda Walton for her outstanding scholarship and service to the university. Walton, an internationally renowned Chinese and world historian, has been a PSU professor for more than 30 years.
In her time at PSU, Walton has been an incredibly active and engaged professor. She was chair of the Department of History for six years, founded and directed the Institute for Asian Studies, edited a scholarly journal in her field, speaks both Chinese and Japanese, is currently learning classical Mongolian and continues to conduct several research projects in China.
“I’m honestly humbled,” Walton said. “I see this award as one person getting recognized for doing things that many people at this university do well. We all struggle with limited resources, but so many people go the extra mile.”
Walton said she first became interested in China and East Asia at the age of 10 after reading a book of tales about a Chinese grandmother. In middle school, she corresponded with a Japanese pen pal, but it wasn’t until college that Walton had the opportunity to take Chinese classes.
Walton—who teaches the Asian studies sophomore inquiry class as well as comparative world history—has always appreciated the overall diversity of PSU and has witnessed the university experience unprecedented growth over her tenure.
“I’ve always enjoyed PSU students. I like the age, cultural and ethnic diversity of my students,” Walton commented. “I’ve seen this institution grow tremendously over 30 years, including its stronger emphasis on scholarship and research.”
History Professor and Center for Japanese Studies Director Ken Ruoff explained that the Millar Award is reserved for those professors who have shown career-long service to PSU but, more importantly, an outstanding determination for furthering scholarship, which is something that Walton has definitely achieved.
“Dr. Walton is internationally respected both as a scholar of Chinese history and of global history,” Ruoff said. “Scholars elsewhere so value Dr. Walton’s interpretations that they have undertaken the painstaking process of translating her scholarship, including complete monographs, into Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Portuguese.”
Only a very small percentage of humanities scholarship is translated into even a second language, let alone four, according to Ruoff. The fact that Walton’s work has been translated so many times speaks volumes about her record as an East Asian scholar.
Ruoff said that by establishing the Institute for Asian Studies and serving as its director, Walton provided PSU with a forum to further inform the university community about Asia. Walton has also dedicated herself to garnering recognition for smaller areas of Asian studies underrepresented at PSU. Despite all of this, Rouff claimed that Walton’s contributions to PSU go far beyond simply her noted scholarly and institutional accomplishments.
“Dr. Walton is widely respected for her strong people skills, including a genuine streak of empathy, but at the same time, there is a very strong correlation between being a world-class scholar in his or her discipline and being a great teacher and great professor overall,” Ruoff said.
According to Cathy Knight, assistant to the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs—the office that handles the award’s organization—the Millar Award is meant for professors who excel in more areas than simply teaching.
“The Branford Price Millar Award is given annually to a faculty member in a tenure-track or tenured appointment who has demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, instruction, university service and public service and whose performance in the area of scholarship and research is judged to be exceptional,” Knight explained.
The award is named in honor of Branford Millar, PSU’s second president. According to the Office of Academic Affairs, Millar helped transition what was once Portland State College to the university we know today by adding master’s and doctoral programs to the institution’s offerings.
The nomination process for the Millar Award is quite thorough. Knight said that a nominator must submit a five-page essay explaining why a professor deserves the award along with a portfolio of supportive materials: letters from former students and colleagues, citations of scholarly works, evidence of university service and any outstanding teaching accomplishments.
Ruoff claimed that Walton’s Millar Award is further evidence of the high caliber of PSU history professors. The Department of History has won seven Millar awards, more than any other department, since the award was first issued in 1979.
“Considering that demonstrated distinction in the area of scholarship is a requisite for the award, it speaks volumes about the ongoing strength of the department, which is flush with renowned scholar-teachers,” Ruoff said.
The award comes with a citation, a $1,500 prize and a chance to speak at the fall 2012 convocation ceremony. Walton plans to use the award money to help fund a research trip to China scheduled for September. There, she will be studying the role that traditional Confucian schools and monuments play in the realm of Chinese heritage tourism.