Dr. Dwyer Distinguished Herself On, Off WNC's Campuses

Apr 1, 2024

Dr. Doris Dwyer taught history and other courses at Western Nevada College for 35 years. She was recently recognized by NSHE as a Distinguished Nevadan.

Dr. Doris Dwyer taught history and other courses at Western Nevada College for 35 years. She was recently recognized by NSHE as a Distinguished Nevadan.

How does a highly decorated college professor punctuate a fabulous professional career?

For long-serving Western Nevada College Professor Dr. Doris Dwyer that came from the Nevada System of Higher Board of Education Board of Regents at its recent quarterly meeting in Las Vegas. The 13-member Board of Regents recognized the retired history professor with the Distinguished Nevadan Award.

“I was thrilled to be nominated for this award and quite overwhelmed when the NSHE office notified me that the Regents had named me as one of the recipients,” said Dr. Dwyer, who was nominated for the honor by former WNC colleague Dr. Jeffrey Downs, who teaches mathematics at Western while serving on the Board of Regents. “It is so very satisfying to hear that my work with rural outreach during my WNC years and my public service on the local, state and national levels was so kindly acknowledged by the regents.”

For someone who grew up and spent part of her early adulthood a couple thousand miles away from Nevada, that’s an accomplishment in itself.

Like many students at WNC, Dr. Dwyer was a first-generation higher education student, attending Eastern Kentucky University (BA, Social Science; MA, American and Russian History). After a three-year instructorship in the EKU Learning Lab (one of the earliest in the nation), she earned a Ph.D. in American History at Miami University in Ohio. Her first post-doctoral college teaching appointment was on the Navajo Reservation.

But once Dr. Dwyer moved West and settled in Fallon in 1980, her devotion to the remote community in Western Nevada never wavered. She dedicated 35 years to teaching history and humanities to students on WNC’s Fallon campus.

"We commend Dr. Dwyer for making a significant difference with our students and providing our rural students with access to higher education for so many years," said WNC President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe. "As one of our longest-serving instructors, she has left a legacy of accomplishments and imprints on our college, from our Fallon campus and beyond. She is truly a Distinguished Nevadan!”

Of course, there were other reasons why she embraced and remained in Fallon.

“I have always enjoyed the Churchill County community,” she said. “It has been wonderful living in a smaller town with the cultural assets available in Fallon — WNC, the Churchill County Library, the Churchill County Museum, the Churchill Arts Council and the supportive community here. Having ready access to resources in Reno, Carson City and Lake Tahoe has also been so enjoyable.”

Despite her interests in arts and culture, Dr. Dwyer’s fulfillment came from teaching and learning from her students at WNC and her extended family at the college.

“The greatest joy in my work was, of course, the students, mostly from Churchill County, but also from the rural teaching centers as well as the Carson campus,” Dr. Dwyer said. “I learned a lot from my students, many of whom I still keep in touch with. Teaching is nothing without the students! I worked with many amazing colleagues whose commitment to education was boundless. The Fallon campus staff was like a family in many ways.”

Her desire to teach off campus and the ability to adapt to changing technology allowed Professor Dwyer to provide more students with access to higher education.

“She is most proud of her teaching outreach to the WNC rural centers, teaching frequent on-site classes in Lovelock, Hawthorne, Yerington, Fernley centers, as well as on the Carson and Douglas campuses,” Dr. Downs said. “With the advent of interactive video classes, she embraced this technology to facilitate the completion of course requirements for outlying rural students, in addition to her core student base on the Fallon campus.”

Naturally, Dr. Dwyer was voted outstanding teaching faculty member on five occasions by the Fallon campus students and received the WNC Outstanding Faculty Member by her peers. In addition, she was the recipient of the WNC Presidential Award for Teaching Excellence (2004) and the Regents’ Teaching Award (2005). In 2000, she was awarded the Governor’s Humanities Award through the Nevada Humanities Committee. Most recently, Dr. Dwyer received the Preserve Nevada 2023 Legacy Award recognizing her contributions to Nevada history and culture.

Dr. Dwyer served on numerous public service boards, including Nevada Humanities Committee, 1983-89; University of Nevada Press Board,1997-2005; Nevada Historical Society Quarterly Editorial Board, 1987-95; Advisory Board of Historic Preservation, 1990-94; Nevada Division of Museums and History Board, 1994-99 and 2011-23; and Evaluator, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, 2009-14.

Nationally, Dr. Dwyer served in a number of capacities that provided Nevada a voice in national historical trends and issues: U. S. Department of Education, Program Significance Panel, 1987; Organization of American Historians Community College Committee, 2004-06, and Chair, 2006-08; and Organization of American Historians Executive Board (community college representative), 2009-12.

In retirement, Dr. Dwyer hasn’t slowed down. In fact, the opposite is true.

“The surprise of retirement was how busy I would remain even after my teaching career,” she said. “My cultural commitments increased and I continued my Chautauqua performances and public speaking duties for many years. Most importantly, I had more time for the friendships that I had developed over 35 years, and also have more time to visit family.”