SUNY Cortland professors Robert Darling and Peter McGinnis, two faculty members who each boast more than 20 years of service to the College, have earned promotions to the distinguished ranks of the State University of New York.
Darling, a professor of geology, was promoted to Distinguished Teaching Professor and McGinnis, a professor of kinesiology, was recognized as a Distinguished Service Professor. The pair was among 16 faculty members to be ranked among the best educators the system has to offer by the SUNY Board of Trustees during its May 10 meeting in Albany, N.Y.
The Distinguished Teaching Professorship denotes mastery of teaching and outstanding service to students. Darling becomes the 10th faculty member with that distinction to currently serve SUNY Cortland. The Distinguished Service Professorship recognizes extraordinary service not only on campus, but also on community and system-wide levels. McGinnis is the seventh current faculty member to earn the title.
Whether he’s teaching a one-credit introductory course such as COR 101 or an advanced topic for geology majors, Darling approaches teaching the same way — with passion and excitement to foster a love of learning.
“Dr. Bob once told me: ‘If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life,’” wrote one of his former students in a course teacher evaluation. “I honestly believe this truly applies to him.”
Darling has developed a reputation for bringing course materials to life, through drawings, physical models and easy-to-understand explanations. In one class, for instance, he shook a washbasin filled with golf balls and ping pong balls to show how heavy and light isotopes fractionate as a result of evaporation of water, demonstrating an important concept in how scientists decipher climate change.
“I still have my petrology notebook because it is the most concise guide I will ever find,” wrote a former student who now works in the energy field.
Darling joined the Geology Department in 1992, achieved the rank of associate professor in 1996 and was promoted to professor in 2001. He has remained active as a scholar and researcher throughout his career, writing more than 30 published scientific abstracts, 10 geological guidebooks, two maps and a book review. The recipient of eight grants, including three from the National Science Foundation, his memberships include the New York State Geological Association and the New York State Museum.
“He has become somewhat of a legend with his work in the Adirondacks, his field guides relating to conferences are utilized by many professionals that I now interact with routinely,” wrote a former student now working in the geology field. “I would not hesitate to put him in the top three experts on the geology of the Adirondacks in the world.”
Darling also excels at bringing his scholarship back to the classroom, where he often mentors undergraduate students in research. In many instances, he has mentored students beyond their graduations.
“Truly great teachers, such as Bob, see little distinction between teaching in the classroom and outside,” wrote Christopher McRoberts, a SUNY Cortland professor of geology.
Darling’s “students come first” approach has earned him a reputation on SUNY Cortland’s campus not just among geology majors, but learners from all academic disciplines. Further, his interpretation of higher education as a partnership was never lost on students.
Even those who found his course difficult praised his teaching methods.
“It was really hard material and an intense class,” one student wrote. “But I really enjoyed it.”
The authoritative voice on the biomechanics of pole vaulting belongs to McGinnis, an internationally respected scholar who has worked extensively with U.S.A. Track and Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee for decades.
Pole vaulters, from beginners in Central New York to Olympic champions and their coaches, have depended on his analysis since the early 1980s. So have organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials and legal representatives requiring expert testimony in pole vault accident litigations.
His service to the sport and the study of its biomechanics — at the College, in the community and on a national level — has proven superior.
McGinnis joined SUNY Cortland as an associate professor of physical education in 1990, earned a promotion to professor in 1999 and moved to the Kinesiology Department when it was established in 2007. During his tenure, his campus commitments have included co-chairing the College Research Committee as well as chairing the School of Professional Studies Personnel Committee, the College Curriculum Review Committee and the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee.
Many individual College awards also have piled up during his career, including the Gerald DiGiusto Award for Outstanding Faculty Member in 1996 and the Exercise Science and Sport Studies Department’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service in 2001-02.
And, of course, he lends his expertise in pole vaulting on a volunteer basis to the College’s track and field teams. Since 1991, his pole vaulters have won a combined 42 State University of New York Athletic Conference titles indoors and outdoors as well as a national championship outdoors in 2009.
That service extended out into the community, where McGinnis served for 13 years as a volunteer track and field official for the Syracuse Chargers Track Club. Additionally, since 1997, he has led many pole vaulting clinics for Central New York high school athletes and their coaches.
On a national level, McGinnis is as respected in his sport as any, serving as the biomechanist for the pole vault event for U.S.A. Track and Field, the country’s governing body for the sport. In December, the organization awarded him the Harmon Brown Sports Medicine and Science Award.
His scholarship related to the biomechanics includes the highly regarded book, Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise, plus 24 peer-reviewed articles. McGinnis also has authored 55 technical reports addressing pole vaulting topics and has chaired three committees responsible for establishing important safety standards in the sport.
A sought-after presenter at national and international conferences, McGinnis has obtained more than 40 grants to support his scholarship, further improving the ways researchers understand the biomechanics of pole vaulting.