Besonen Honored as Distinguished Alum
A successful businesswoman wrote of professor Phil Besonen that as a 15-year-old girl she was contemplating suicide until he stepped in and helped her discover her potential. A high school English teacher described how she has attended three colleges and earned more than 200 hours in classes with many different professors but remains on a first-name basis with only one – Besonen. A Harvard graduate goes so far as to call Besonen an angel because of the guidance he offers students.
These are just a few excepts taken from letters 12 of Besonen’s former students wrote to the University of Minnesota nominating him as one of its College of Education and Human Development’s 100 Distinguished Alumni. The college is celebrating its centennial year by honoring 100 graduates who have distinguished themselves in the field of education. The college has 45,000 living alumni and was ranked fifth among all public professional schools by U.S. News & World Report last year.
Besonen will travel to the campus in Minneapolis for two days of special events May 5-6. The University of Minnesota plans to produce a book about its 100 honorees.
Tom Smith, chairman of the UA department of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions, said, “Dr. Besonen continues to strive to prepare teachers to be the best social studies teachers they can be. Mediocrity is not something that he tolerates very well.”
The former students who nominated Besonen for the award ranged from a student he taught in his first year in public schools to a member of last year’s master of arts in teaching secondary education cohort. Abdallah Ahmad Baniabdelrahman, a member of the curriculum and instruction faculty at Yarmouk University in Jordan, noted Besonen’s efforts to decrease the gap between the different cultures of students in the curriculum and instruction department at the University of Arkansas.
“As a result of his efforts, professor Besonen improved the non-American students’ attitudes toward the Americans and the American culture,” Baniabdelrahman said. “Before I met him, I thought that all other cultures were wrong ones and only my culture is right. But professor Besonen widened my vision and I started listening to people of other cultures, which led me to conduct many studies to explore and understand people of other cultures and nations.”
Andrew L. Hunt, graduate coordinator of secondary education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, pointed to Besonen’s ability to teach technology in his nomination letter.
“He and I began our quest to be technologically savvy at the same time,” Hunt said. “Dr. Besonen was the only professor I had during my graduate work who sat beside students to teach and learn methods for incorporating technology into the curriculum. … It is because of his enthusiasm and love for learning that I am now a professor of education.”
Besonen earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social studies education from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Brigham Young University. Additional study was at Dartmouth College, State University of New York at Stony Brook and Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He has taught in the College of Education and Health Professions since 1973. He and his wife, Joan, have three adult children who are professional writers.
A local newspaper quoted Besonen in a 2000 report about the Internet’s revolutionary effect on education.
“Technology is changing so fast. I compare it to a dog track – the dogs never catch the rabbit,” Besonen said. “I will never catch up with technology, but if I stop running, I’ll be out of the race altogether.”
This latest honor garnered by Besonen shows he’s still in the race.
Heidi Stambuck, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, email@example.com