History Department
History Department

Two history majors receive Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Award

Fri, March 11, 2011
Two history majors receive Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Award
Lindsey Carmichael and Stephen Mercer, 2011 Dean's Distinguished Graduates

Each year the College of Liberal Arts honors 12 seniors with the Dean's Distinguished Graduate Award for their leadership, scholarly achievements and service to the community. The students will be honored at the College of Liberal Arts spring commencement ceremony on Friday, May 20.

Here are the stories of the Department of History's two Dean's Distinguished Graduates:

Lindsey A. Carmichael, a native Texan, is a double major in history and English. Her essays, poetry, and short fiction have already won first place in English department contests. After graduation, Carmichael has her “sights on publication in historical research and creative fiction novels.”

Indeed, one of her history professors, Dr. L.J. Andrew Villalon, has been so impressed with her writing and research capabilities from having her as a student in three of the four classes he teaches, that he recently asked Carmichael to submit a chapter for a new book he will be co-editing on women of power in the Middle Ages. Villalon’s new book will include submissions from “a number of well-respected scholars from national universities,” he said.

Lindsey Carmichael, 2011 Dean's Distinguished Graudate“I have offered Lindsey the chance to write about one of the people whose story must be part of any such volume, Eleanor of Aquitaine, founder of the troubadour tradition and mother of both Richard the Lionheart and John of England,” Villalon wrote in his letter of recommendation. “I would not offer this opportunity to someone who is still an undergraduate (she will have graduated by the time the collection appears) unless I was absolutely certain of the result.”

In 2009, she won the Mike Wacker Award from the Texas Parents’ Association “for courage and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity.” That adversity was a diagnosis at age four with McCune Albright Syndrome — a rare bone condition that causes bones to weaken and then fracture. Although the syndrome can affect the whole body, in Carmichael's case it only affected the lower body.

While Carmichael was in middle school, one of her math teachers had an idea for a non-contact sport that his student might enjoy — archery. She did more than enjoy it; she excelled at it, and today is one of the world’s greatest Paralympic archers, setting a world record in the qualifying competition and finishing sixth overall at the 2004 Athens Paralympics. Carmichael's father has been her primary coach for most of her archery career.

In 2008, Carmichael competed at the Beijing Paralympics and brought back a Bronze Medal for the United States — the first in 34 years that any female athlete has earned in this sport — as she puts it “able bodied or otherwise.”

A remarkable achievement in itself, but especially so after she spent two years overcoming what is known in the sport as “target panic,” where an archer has the overwhelming impulse to prematurely release the arrow (simply said). It can be a career-ending plight.

It is not surprising that she is a member of The University of Texas’ (UT) Archery Club. She has served as the chief senior recruitment officer, vice president, and coach for competitive archers.

She is a member of the Friar Society, the university’s oldest honor society, currently serving in multiple officer capacities, including the organization’s centennial celebration committee to be held this spring. Carmichael is also a member of the UT Toastmasters group.

Carmichael is currently employed as an administrative assistant in the office at Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin and is a virtual franchisee for National Safety Associates Juice Plus+ dietary supplements.

Despite enduring numerous surgeries and broken bones, Carmichael has certainly lived by her motto — a quote from John Wooden: “Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

Stephen Mercer, 2011 Dean's Distinguished GraudateStephen C. Mercer is the second history major that is being recognized as a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate in 2011. He is a native Georgian and found his way to The University of Texas through the very selective process of the United States Marine Corps' Enlisted Commissioning Education Program.

He is completing his degree requirements in less than four years — a feat many find difficult enough to accomplish much less while serving as a staff sergeant in the Corps. Mercer missed one entire academic semester to attend the requisite Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

United States Navy Captain D.N. Dixon, professor of naval science, wrote in his letter of recommendation that Mercer has “…dedicated over 1,000 hours assisting in the professional development of more than 100 midshipmen associated with our program…. Staff Sergeant Mercer worked tirelessly to capture his experiences and generate a comprehensive training plan consisting of academic classes, field exercises, and physical training to prepare students for the rigors of future military service.”

Mercer’s Marine Officer Instructor Major Ty Kopke, an assistant professor of naval science, who spends close to 12 hours each day with students (and some weekends) wrote:  “Stephen’s weaknesses are on par with most students’ strengths…. He is a master of time management.”

Mercer is already responsible for the supervision of 63 other NROTC students. Major Kopke says Mercer “is a master of delegation, supervision, planning, and execution…. Every aspect of his life is scrutinized.”

To date, he has served more than eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps that has already included multiple military operations on four continents and eight countries, often contending without the benefit of language translators or the presence of higher-level leadership.

He is a veteran of the 2006 military surge in Iraq and participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s operation to protect assets up to $1 billion as they were transported through the Mediterranean Sea area.

Like Carmichael, Mercer’s father also played an instrumental role in his development; as a U.S. Army solider deployed to Europe, the senior Mercer took the family with him. It was there the younger Mercer learned “to love history at an early age,” he said.

After graduation, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. More travel and further education are also planned with the eventual intent of returning to the university as a history professor.

Mercer enjoys non-contact sports too such as running, swimming, and rock climbing.

And he also has a motto he lives by from George Sheehan, “Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”
The Department of History is honored to count Carmichael and Mercer among its own and congratulates them for their latest accomplishment of being selected to the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Program.

The complete list of 2011 Dean's Distinguished Graduates:

  • Nubia Betancourt (Arabic Language and Literature)
  • Lindsey Carmichael (History/English)
  • Shelby Carvalho (Government/Humanities)
  • William Cochran (Plan II Honors)
  • Frances Deavers (Psychology)
  • Denisa Ganadara (Spanish/Philosophy)
  • Monica Gully (English/Plan II Honors)
  • Wiley Jennings (Latin American Studies/Plan II Honors)
  • Kathleen Kidder (Classics)
  • Stephen Mercer (History)
  • Mathew Ramirez (Latin/English)
  • Jessika Roesner (Linguistics/Computer Science/Plan II Honors)

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Program, which has yielded more than 360 alumni who represent the best and the brightest graduates of the College of Liberal Arts. In 2009, the college created the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Alumni Association in an effort to better connect alumni to one another and the college. Visit this website for more information.

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