STORM LAKE, Iowa -- Bemidji High School and Bemidji State University graduate Shawn Stone has won Buena Vista University’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.
Stone is a professor of Physics and Computer Science at the school, which is located in Storm Lake, Iowa. He was named the 34th recipient of the George Wythe Award during the university’s Employee Recognition Celebration, shown by video, on May 22.
Stone took all the math, science and physics classes he could at Bemidji High, where he still holds the school record in the 100-meter dash at 10.95 seconds. He ran on the track team as a freshman at Bemidji State, but gave up the sport as his love for physics intensified. He graduated with a degree in engineering physics and went on to graduate school at the University of North Dakota, then earned a doctorate at the University of Kansas.
Now in his 21st year at BVU, Stone is currently working toward a micro master’s degree in artificial intelligence as a means to enhance his computer science instruction.
The 1989 BHS graduate lauds his algebra teacher, Gary Breitag, with opening a window to his professional world when Stone was barely a teen. Word problems, he says, often the bane of middle school and high school students, nearly had Stone retreating from his favorite subject.
“I will always remember the day Mr. Breitag taught me to take a word problem and turn it into math,” Stone says. “I was so frustrated and ready to give up, but he didn’t let me. He showed me the magic and I use it every day. I’m not overstating it when I say it changed my life.”
Stone worked for much of the spring producing bands for face shields used by medical professionals in the battle against COVID-19. He has used BVU’s 3-D printer to print bands for 3,000 shields distributed to medical facilities in Iowa and Minnesota.
Stone says he’ll celebrate this career success with his wife and sons, Isaac and Liam, and share it with his colleagues and students, even if by a virtual means. And, he’ll begin to make plans on how to enrich his learning with the benefits of this honor, namely a semester of research or study to complement a cash stipend. A tour of science-related World War II sites also piques his curiosity.
The Wythe Award is endowed through a gift from the late BVU Life Trustee Drs. Paul and Vivian McCorkle, BVU Class of 1958. The award is named for George Wythe, the educator whose students included Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, James Monroe, and Henry Clay.