Feature Stories

William Gokelman Receives Presidential Teaching Award

By Miguel Ochoa

The University of the Incarnate Word honored William Gokelman, chair of its music department and accomplished musical director, composer and performer, with the 2006 Presidential Teaching Award. The award, created by the Faculty Senate with support from President Dr. Louis Agnese, Jr., recognizes an outstanding educator for his or her dedication to teaching and support of the overall mission of the university.

This year's finalists are all recognized leaders in their fields of expertise: Dr. Mary Ruth Moore, professor of education; Dr. Neeta Singh, assistant professor of nutrition; and Dr. William Thomann, professor of science. What better tribute to this year’s winner than these words from one of his students…

So, Mr. Gokelman won the Presidential Teaching Award. Should I be surprised? I don't think so.

Every student knows when it comes to putting your schedule together for university classes, there's more to it than just finding a class after 9:00 a.m. It's about talking to everyone you know about which teachers give the hardest tests, the least homework, and the most in-depth reviews for finals. However, every once in a while you hear this about someone: “Take him -- he's amazing.” That person is Mr. William Gokelman.

As a member of the UIW Chorale and Madrigals, I have had the privilege and blessing of being under Mr. Gokelman's direction for almost three years. What makes him so special? I can tell you.

In addition to his teaching abilities, Mr. Gokelman is the epitome of someone who is selfless, committed, and unbelievably talented, while remaining extremely humble. Everything he does in his classroom is for the students and their education. He is a teacher who not only teaches you a piece of music, but he makes you feel the intensity of the composer. He provides a glimpse of how the composer lived and what he or she was thinking about while writing the piece. At the same time, he makes you feel like you're the only student in the room. His teaching abilities surpass what is expected by any student, at any level -- guaranteed.

Bill Gokelman
Bill Gokelman proudly accepts the prestigious Presidential Teaching Award from UIW's president, Dr. Louis J. Agnese, Jr.

Mr. Gokelman's style of teaching is truly unique. As his student, it is hard to understand why that is. All I know is, when I look around the classroom and see people from such diverse backgrounds, I see everyone equally intrigued by Mr. Gokelman's knowledge. The fact that everyone enjoys being his student is evident when you see some of the best singers, alongside some needing more work, signing up for Chorale semester after semester - even if they don't need the credit.

Outside of class, I have witnessed his music ministry through compositions he has written, church choirs he has directed, and concerts he has performed for crowds of people. Communities gather to hear him and watch his fingers dance across the piano keyboard as blessings can almost be seen jumping off the piano strings and into the hearts of the audience. His work with the choir at St. Mark (the Evangelist) Catholic Church and the ACTS program are other ways he sacrifices his time for his community.

I am reminded of an anonymous quote: “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit.” I don't think there is a better philosophy that applies to Mr. Gokelman. He continuously thinks of others before himself.

The university is blessed with a music faculty that not only has a genuine concern for students but also enormous talent. It is no wonder that the department's chair is someone who fully personifies both of these qualities. There is no one more fitting of this high Presidential honor. Mr. Gokelman's commitment to excellence and selfless service is an example to all, as he is truly a blessing to the university and to me.

Miguel Ochoa, a junior this fall, majors in music education. He plans to become a music instructor, preferably director of a high school band.

Bill Gokelman will present and perform at four different conferences this summer: the Religious Bookseller’s Trade Exhibit national conference in Chicago; the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) Region 1 conference in Grand Rapids, MI, and the NPM Region 3 conference in Sacramento, CA. He is also co-clinician for the annual Pastoral Institute Music Workshop at UIW.