CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 5, 2014 – “There is almost no better job than being a college faculty member,” says Dr. Walt Lilly, the newest recipient of Southeast Missouri State University’s PRIDE Award.
“I have tremendous freedom to pursue my intellectual interests, and the fun of working with college students has been a source of constant joy for me,” he says.
Lilly, a professor in the Department of Biology at Southeast, will receive the 2013 PRIDE Award and serve as the grand marshal during spring commencement at 2 p.m. on May 17. Lilly also will present the address at the Honors Convocation at 10:30 a.m. May 17. Both ceremonies are in the Show Me Center.
The Provost’s Research, Instruction and Development for Excellence (PRIDE) Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence as a teacher, an extraordinary level of scholarship and service and whose overall accomplishments are especially noteworthy.
Lilly was selected for the award by the Council of Deans after nominations were solicited from each of the University’s colleges and schools. The recipient of the award is honored for exemplifying the teacher/scholar model. This is the 18th year Southeast has presented the PRIDE Award.
“Dr. Lilly’s lab has provided outstanding research opportunities for dozens of undergraduates on the cutting edge of cellular and molecular biology. Many of these students have gone on to earn advanced degrees, work in prestigious research facilities, or they have applied what they learned working under Dr. Lilly in biomedical careers,” said Dr. Gerald McDougall, interim provost. “In addition, his colleagues have given glowing remarks about his work as Radiation Safety Officer, a role that has required hundreds of hours of his time, often late at night or on weekends. Without a doubt, Dr. Lilly demonstrates the qualities represented by the PRIDE Award: outstanding achievements in teaching, scholarly work and service.”
Lilly, a Houston, Mo., native, earned his Bachelor of Science in biology in 1975 from Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State University, and doctoral degree in plant biology in 1979 from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. He taught for three years at Lake Forest College in Illinois before joining the Department of Biology at Southeast in 1982.
In his 34-year career, Lilly has taught courses ranging from freshman biology to cellular and molecular biology. He is a recipient of multiple awards for teaching, research and service at Southeast, including the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture PRIDE Award in 1997. Lilly is also a recipient of the Southeast Missouri State University Faculty Merit Award. He received the 2002 Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
His research is focused on understanding the role of protein degradation in the normal nutrition of mushroom producing fungi, especially those that decay wood. He and his colleagues, including Dr. Allen Gathman, associate dean for Online Learning, have made contributions to understanding the physiology of nutrient recycling in these fungi, and in the biochemistry and genomics of the enzymes responsible for nutrient mobilization. As a part of his research program, Lilly has mentored more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students. He has published more than 30 papers in the field, including recent papers in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science–USA,” “Nature Biotechnology” and “Science.”
Additionally, he has been a principal investigator on National Science Foundation-funded research grants totaling more than $1.25 million. Lilly also has been active in University governance in the areas of program review, budget and faculty compensation throughout his career.
Since the year 2000, Lilly has been the University’s Radiation Safety Officer. In that role he oversaw the 12-year, $4.5 million remediation project in Magill Hall.
Lilly has been married to his wife, Diana Lilly, for 38 years and they have two grown children, both of whom are Southeast alumni.