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New Advisor To Lead Edmunds Scholars Program

Dixon Sutherland

Dixon Sutherland, Ph.D., professor of religious studies

When you first meet Dixon Sutherland, Ph.D., you don’t immediately realize the impact he has had on the lives of some of Stetson University’s best scholars and students. Sutherland is a professor of religious studies, and is well known for his work with students in that area, but his other claim to fame is that he has served as advisor to the Edmunds Scholars Program for the past 11 years. Not anymore.

“There comes a time when you should allow someone else to have the pleasure of working with these students,” Sutherland said. “I kept looking for the ‘right’ time to resign, but could never find one. So I just did it.”

This year Sutherland attended his final meeting of the J. Ollie Edmunds Distinguished Scholarship Program board. Known as the Edmunds Scholars Program, it is one of Stetson University’s most prestigious scholarships.

Taking over the reins this June is Michael King, Ph.D., professor of biology. With a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Virginia, King has been teaching at Stetson since 1993. Serving as mentor to students on their senior research projects, he’s aware that being the advisor for such a prestigious group is no easy task but he knows it will be rewarding.

Michael King, Ph.D., professor of biology

Michael King, Ph.D., professor of biology

“My main function as the advisor in the program will be to help the Edmunds Scholars reach their goals both in and outside of the classroom,” King said. “I am excited about taking over. It will be fun and rewarding to work with some of Stetson’s most capable and motivated students. The Edmunds Scholars make significant contributions on our campus, in our community and beyond, so it will be an honor to be a small part of this program.”

King said he plans on meeting with the students frequently to answer any questions they have, making the students aware of all the opportunities they have at present, tracking their academic and extracurricular activities and encouraging them to become leaders, helping them overcome any obstacles they may face.

Anne Edmunds, left, granddaughter of J. Ollie Edmunds, speaks with two member of the Edmunds Scholars Program Board.

Anne Edmunds, left, granddaughter of J. Ollie Edmunds, speaks with parents of Edmunds Scholars finalists.

“As hard as it is to picture the Edmunds program without Dr. Sutherland as he has been such a critical component of the program for myself and the other scholars, I believe that Dr. King will take over the position with great success,” said Jaime Fields, an Edmunds Scholar and Stetson senior majoring in chemistry with a minor in Spanish. “Dr. King is a great fit for the Edmunds program. I have gotten to know him as a pre-med student and I feel that his personality and the time he has spent advising other Stetson students makes him well prepared for the position. As scholars, we are very goal-oriented and know early on what we want from our Stetson experience. I feel that Dr. King will serve well as a listening ear, allowing students to further develop as leaders while providing a new perspective in his advising.”

“Dr. King is the perfect choice as a new advisor,” Sutherland said. “He will provide fresh thinking and advice for these students,” Sutherland said. Jokingly, he added, “And they will keep him on his toes, especially in Trivia.”

“Serving as advisor to the Edmunds Scholars has been special,” he said, reflecting on his time working with the Edmunds Scholars. “I was able to know them since they were applicants to Stetson, and then I continued to be a part of their lives for four years. Then I got to watch them cross the stage at graduation, and send them off into the world. I like to think that I have supported them to help them navigate rough waters if necessary, celebrate their victories and help them reach the next goal of their lives which is usually graduate school of some sort.”

“Besides their outstanding academic accomplishments, watching them make such substantial contributions across the campus and in the community beyond campus during their four years, is mind-boggling,” he continued. “It has been rewarding to see them flourish, and to hear of their accomplishments five or 10 years after Stetson.”

Edmunds Scholars, L to R: Matthew Sweeney, Jamie Fields, Daniel Humphrey and Leia Schartz.

Edmunds Scholars, L to R: Matthew Sweeney, Jamie Fields, Daniel Humphrey and Leia Schwartz.

Fields said that the Edmunds Scholar Program has really supported her efforts to take part in a variety of experiences that enhanced her college education, such as spending a summer doing medically oriented anthropologic research in rural Mexico, participating in a summer health-studies program in Santiago, Chile, and spending a semester doing study abroad at Oxford University.

“The scholarship has also driven me to be very involved and pursue leadership positions on campus. I served as president of the American Chemical Society student chapter and I was a member of the Honors System Council and a member of the women’s club soccer team. Additionally, having the support of the Edmunds and Novak families and my fellow scholars, has shown me the value of the Stetson community. Their support is really at the heart of my Stetson experience.”

Named to honor the memory and legacy of Stetson’s fourth president, the Edmunds Scholarship Program is a nationally competitive merit-based college scholarship program that attracts top student scholars with leadership potential to Stetson. The scholarship pays all four years of expenses at Stetson for students who exhibit exemplary academic and personal leadership. In addition to being well-rounded students, Stetson’s Edmunds Scholars are selected for their strong character, integrity and leadership skills. All scholars are involved with co-curricular activities and participate in athletics, contribute to the Stetson community and display discipline, integrity, strong written and verbal communication skills and creativity.

If interested in learning more about the program and how to apply, visit the J. Ollie Edmunds Distinguished Scholarship Program page.

by Nicole Melchionda