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Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award winners to be honored at December commencement ceremony

November 18, 2019

Gregory Beyer and Sean Farrell have been selected as the recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award. Established in 2015, the award recognizes outstanding graduate faculty members for their scholarly achievements and exceptional contributions to graduate education at NIU.

“Both Beyer and Farrell have done a remarkable job of embedding graduate students in their artistry and research, respectively,” Bradley Bond, dean of NIU’s Graduate School, said. “Celebrating the contributions of faculty to the education of our students must be a routine part of the university’s business.”

Gregory Beyer

Beyer is a Fulbright Scholar, composer, educator and contemporary music specialist who blends the disciplines of orchestral, jazz and world music into a singular artistic voice. He is currently a professor and director of percussion studies at NIU’s School of Music as well as a core member of two Chicago-based music ensembles: Dal Niente and the CCCC’s Grossman Ensemble. Beyer is also the artistic director of Arcomusical, an organization dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian berimbau.

Beyer earned his bachelor’s degree from Lawrence University, master’s degree and doctor of musical arts from Manhattan School of Music.

“It is an honor to receive the Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award,” Beyer said. “It is a heartwarming feeling to know that the artistic path I have chosen, and in which I am including both current students and alumni, is recognized by our NIU community.”

Janet Hathaway, acting associate dean of NIU’s School of Music, said the strength of NIU percussion students and the close-knit alumni community attest to Beyer’s mentoring and collaborations that extend well beyond his teaching duties.

“Greg is that faculty member who not only dedicates an extraordinary amount of time to his students in the form of teaching, rehearsals and office hours but also involves them in his professional work,” Hathaway said. “He performs alongside his students, leading and inspiring by his example.”

For Beyer, having the opportunity to do what he loves to do at an institution like NIU is a humbling experience.

“I’m grateful to be part of a community where diversity, equity and opportunity for everyone matters and so many people are pulling in the direction of truth, beauty and the right side of history,” Beyer said. “It is an honor to be a Huskie and to use my gifts as an artist and a teacher to make the world a better place. I owe so much to NIU to have provided the platform for this daily work to take place.”

Sean Farrell

Farrell is a historian whose research focuses on the links between politics, religion and violence in nineteenth-century Ireland. A former president of the American Conference for Irish Studies and award-winning author, Farrell earned his bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and a master’s and doctorate degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I’ve spent much of my career working with graduate students both here at NIU and in Irish Studies more generally,” said Farrell, a professor in the Department of History. “These have been some of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences of my professional life, so it’s wonderful to have that work recognized.” 

Farrell’s work in graduate education builds upon his illustrious career as a researcher and one of the top scholars in Irish history working in the United States.

“From teaching courses and advising students to working closely with mentees to advance scholarly knowledge, his rigorous and pedagogically astute reading and research seminars have led our masters and doctoral students to hone their analytic skills and develop their abilities to ask appropriate research questions,” Valerie Garver, chair of NIU’s Department of History, said. “Professor Farrell strikes a perfect balance in these settings of being approachable and supportive (as well as) critical and demanding.”

In addition to receiving a $2,000 award and a plaque, Beyer and Farrell will be recognized during the Graduate School commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the NIU Convocation Center.