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In the fall of 1972, I entered ISU as a political science major from Bettendorf High School. Although I'd been awarded a VEISHA Scholarship to help offset tuition costs, I was far from convinced that a large state university was the ideal location for me to begin my college career. Professor Ann Vinograde not only helped to assuage my initial doubts about the impersonal nature of the institution - she planted and nurtured in me the passion for learning the Russian language and the great satisfaction connected with the profession of teaching. Twenty two years later I find myself a tenured professor at another large state university and chair of the Department of Russian. Although I eventually studied under many professors in my doctoral program at the University of Michigan and in several universities in Russia, when asked to name the teacher who most influenced my career, I think first and foremost of one name - Ann Vinograde. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not recount either for myself or for my own students the many ways in which she went about first identifying and then working to fuel some dull sparks of talent which she saw in a frightened young coed in her Beginning Russian class.
Ann's classes were my first real-life lessons in dealing with high expectations, real commitment to a goal, and the resulting successes and failures associated with both. She was a very tough task master who was consistently precise in articulating her expectations for all her students in our journey to master the Russian language. Her own native abilities in both Russian and English did much to inspire those like me who were native-born Iowans with minimal contact beyond the Midwest. Even more inspirational, however, was her innate understanding of the difficulties which English-speaking students faced in learning the Russian language and the creative and delightful ways in which she continued to keep our interest levels so high. Clearly a pioneer in the field of teaching Russian and a wonderful mentor and role model to young women, Ann Vinograde's talents and contributions were not always, it seems, as highly valued and honored by her own department and institution as they might have been. Perhaps my brief letter today will help to serve as a reminder to the ISU community as a whole that the popular phrase "excellence in teaching" can also be measured in less quantifiable ways beyond degrees earned or publication lists. True "excellence" in teaching can also be measured in examining the lives of those who have been its recipients. I feel very honored to count myself among the students whose lives were enriched by Ann Vinograde. I am very pleased to be able to honor her in return by including her name among your Plaza of Heroines.
Margaret (Peggy) Hill Mills (ISU class of 1976 *)
Associate Professor and Chair
Submitted on 12/19/94