CHESTERTOWN, MD—A just-released publication from The Princeton Review includes news that students and alumni of Washington College have known for decades—that Richard Gillin is one of the best professors in the country. The 38-year veteran of the English faculty is among those celebrated in The Best 300 Professors (Random House/Princeton Review, $19.99), released today in bookstores and online. “In shaping individuals to become critical thinkers in both his and other disciplines,” the guide says, “Professor Gillin teaches his students to draw insights from English literature that can be useful in their lives.”
The Princeton Review teamed up with the popular ratings site RateMyProfessors.com to develop the list of top teachers, who hail from 122 colleges and universities. The results put Gillin in very good company, indeed. From the initial list of 42,000 professors who were considered, the final group of “best” professors constitutes less than .02 percent of the roughly 1.8 million post-secondary teachers instructing students at colleges and universities across the U.S.
“Rich Gillin really does set the bar for the kind of teaching we value and support at Washington College,” President Mitchell B. Reiss said upon hearing of the honor. “This recognition could not be more deserved.”
Gillin came to the Chestertown campus in 1973 after earning an undergraduate degree from William Paterson College, a master’s from St. John’s University and a Ph.D. from Bowling Green University. As the Ernest A. Howard Professor of English Literature and the Director of the Humanities Program at Washington College, he teaches 18th and 19th century English literature, with a special interest in Romanticism and the English-language literature of post-colonial India and the Caribbean. In addition, he directs the Kiplin Hall Summer Program, a three-week residential course on Literature and Landscape based at a 17th century estate in England.
Students quoted in the guide describe Gillin as “extremely helpful and flexible,” and “the best English professor and kindest soul you’ll ever meet.” They say he “validates, encourages, and inspires,” and is “a model for educators … a man for the Ivory Tower as well as the struggling student.”
Gillin’s colleague Kathryn Moncrief, chair of the English Department, agrees with their assessment. “Rich’s intelligence, generosity, and integrity exemplify the very best of Washington College. He inspires students with his knowledge and love of literature, challenges them to think deeply about and get engaged by what they've read, and guides them as they become better writers,” she says. “He’s known by students as a professor who is both rigorous and kind, someone whose courses are ‘must-takes’ for English majors. And those who accompany him to Kiplin Hall in England to read poetry and hike where Wordsworth and Coleridge did, return utterly transformed.”
Gillin modestly says his first response on hearing of the honor was to “make sure they had the right guy.” He praises the College for what he describes as a nurturing attitude toward good teaching and helping professors expand their own horizons. “They have encouraged me to pursue my interests in the literary world and let me teach without a lot of distractions.” He also has good things to say about his students and their willingness to take on tough new areas of study. “There really is a good-natured quality and intellectual openness among Washington College students,” he says. “They are willing to study areas of literature that are not widely popular or easily accessible.”
Princeton Review publisher Robert Franek says The Best 300 Professors is a tribute to the extraordinary dedication of America's best undergraduate college professors “and the vitally important role they play in our culture, and our democracy. We are truly pleased to recommend them—and the schools at which they teach—to college applicants and their parents who use our resources,” he adds.
The Best 300 Professors is one of nearly 150 Princeton Review books published by Random House. Its flagship guide, The Best 376 Colleges, included Washington College in the 2012 edition, which featured just 15 percent of the nation's colleges and universities. To see the complete lists of the “Best 300 Professors,” visit www.princetonreview.com/best-professors.aspx.