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Dr. Karen A. Williams, an East Central University physics professor, was honored as one of the first American Association of Physics Teachers Fellows during a ceremony on July 28 in Minneapolis, Minn.

The fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers and is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to AAPT’s mission to enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching.

It was the inauguration cohort of the AAPT Fellowship Program.

“I am still shocked that I was considered for the first group of fellows in AAPT. I feel undeserving of the award,” said Williams. “I am sad that my friend and mentor Mary Beth Monroe died before the fellows program was established. She deserves it so much more than me. I am an AAPT Fellow and must now do for other new members what she did for me. I must carry her torch for the training of physics teachers in two-year colleges, giving two-year colleges a voice within AAPT and more leadership by women within AAPT.”

Williams said her mentor and friend, Monroe in Texas, paved the way for women to have more activity and position on committees as well as in the presidential chain of AAPT.

“Long ago, I went to a summer meeting because Dr. Carl Rutledge, my boss, did. He led the way. Then I became friends with Mary Beth and attended activities with AAPT because I was National Society of Physics Students President,” she explained. “I guess I didn’t know that I was on the AAPT National Office radar until I was given the (AAPT) Distinguished Service Citation in 2010.

“I am fortunate that Dr. Rutledge pointed me toward AAPT and I am thankful that Mary Beth Monroe paved the way for more and more women to succeed. AAPT wasn’t excluding women in those days. There were just fewer and fewer women to encourage each other to be leaders.”          

Williams has earned several awards since joining the ECU faculty. She received two ECU Teacher Excellence Awards for 1999-2000 and 2008-2009. She was named Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 2003, OSSEF (Oklahoma State Science and Engineering Fair) Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Worth Seagondollar Service Award (by the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society) in 2008.

“AAPT helps high school, two-year college teachers and four-year university physics faculty, teach their students better. I can’t wait to implement some of what I learned at this meeting into my Physics I and Physics II courses this semester,” Williams said. 


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