Zintl Award Winner Carolyn M. Callahan a Standout on Grounds and Beyond

September 11, 2007
Sept. 11, 2007 -- You will find her in China; you will find her at a National Girls and Women in Sport Day celebration. You will find her on high-level search committees; you will find her in the classroom.

Thousands of students over the past 33 years have found and benefited from the work of University of Virginia Commonwealth Professor of Education Carolyn M. Callahan, a leader in gifted education. U.Va. has benefited from her expertise, insight and reputation throughout its critical late 20th-century transformation. Among the first group of women faculty in the Curry School of Education, Callahan joins another group of distinguished women as the 2007 winner of the Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award.

A public reception to honor Callahan will be held Sept. 27 from 4-6 p.m. in the Harrison/Small Auditorium of the Special Collections Library. Those interested in attending are requested to RSVP to Elizabeth Bollwerk at eab7f@virginia.edu or (434) 982-2911 by Sept. 21.

“Her leadership stood out” among a group of very strong nominees, said Virginia Moran, associate director of the Women’s Center who oversaw the selection committee.

A pioneer in understanding and challenging those learners called “gifted and talented,” Callahan has taught about two-thirds of the state’s leaders in gifted education. She directs the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, and founded the Summer Enrichment Program at U.Va., an alternate version of camp that brings gifted and talented students to the University to take specialized classes from U.Va. faculty and other distinguished teachers. Author of more than 100 articles and twice as many presentations, her professional reputation crosses national and international borders.

She has served on dozens of committees at the University, including the provost's Tenure and Review Committee, the Jefferson Scholar Selection Committee, the president’s Task Force on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the Committee on Financial Aid and the Women’s Leadership Council.

One of her most interesting roles, Callahan says, continues to be serving as the faculty representative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and to the Atlantic Coast Conference, which she took on in 1997.

“I feel a strong commitment to student-athletes, to make their time as a University of Virginia student a good experience. … Many are terrific human beings,” said Callahan.

Callahan was recruited to U.Va. in 1973 after earning her Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. Her early days on Grounds coincided with the University adjusting to the arrival of undergraduate women. One of only six women out of 120 faculty members in the Curry School of Education, she remembers declining to teach a class at night because there were no lighted pathways between Cabell and Ruffner halls.
“The University has made incredible strides,” she says. Although women have more opportunities and are more consciously included in activities like serving on committees, they are still underrepresented here, she adds.

She never let that slow her down much, however. Callahan became “a constant voice in support of women in the academy,” according to former Curry School dean David Breneman, who stepped down this summer. Retired professor James Cooper, who served as dean from 1984 to 1995, called her “a superb citizen of the Curry School” and observed her acting as a role model for female and male faculty and graduate students, he said.

Among Callahan’s other commitments, she has chaired the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Policy since 2002.

“Her willingness to take on this often thankless but essential role is a credit to her desire to give back to the school where she has had a highly successful career,” Breneman wrote in supporting her nomination.

U.Va. Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage, who nominated Callahan, said she carries out her role seriously as faculty representative to the NCAA and the ACC, taking on assignments that require extensive travel, preparation, public appearances and decision-making about serious issues, such as sportsmanship, equity and financial aid, leadership, diversity concerns and academic advising.

“She is best able to represent not only the University and the ACC, but most importantly, she is prepared to represent the interests of student-athletes,” Littlepage said.

Jane Miller, senior associate athletics director, explains further: “She advocates for issues that affect the quality of the lives of student-athletes and is the protector of their academic demands. She is sensitive to the uniqueness of their dual priorities and works closely with me and the coaches. … Carolyn has the pulse of the faculty and can advise us when questions and requests come [in].”

In addition to athletics, Callahan has also pursued her interest in international education. She has helped to organize two conferences abroad for Curry faculty and students in higher education administration, one in Scotland and one in China, with educators from the host countries. Another faculty participant joining her was U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.

Callahan said the conferences are another way to see the students’ experience and knowledge expand by seeing other cultures and what’s happening in higher education firsthand in other countries. 

With her intellectual curiosity and willingness to be a leader, don’t expect Callahan to slow down anytime soon.

The U.Va. Women’s Center created the Zintl Award in memory of Elizabeth Zintl, a writer and journalist who served as chief of staff in the president’s office until her death in 1997. The award recognizes women at the University whose high degree of professionalism, creativity and commitment mirrors Zintl’s.