Dr. Joseph Herl, professor of music, was presented with the 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award at the university’s commencement ceremony May 5, 2018.
The honor is given to a full-time faculty member who has been nominated by students. A committee of students, as well as faculty members who have previously received the award, selects the recipient. The recipient’s name is not revealed until it is called during commencement. Student Senate president Dakota Judd and vice president Seth Euken presented the award.
“I have nothing intelligent to say, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past,” said Herl.
“You all have no idea what a failure I am. In high school, my piano teacher told me I had no talent. In college, my voice teacher told me not to sign-up for voice again. In graduate school, my conducting teacher told me I’d never be an effective leader. Then, my first year at Concordia, my teacher evaluations were terrible. One student commented, ‘he’s a wonderful man, but has no clue how to teach.’ And they were right,” Herl said.
“I asked my colleagues to help me become a better teacher – and they did. I learned about lesson plans and I would stand outside the classroom door of good instructors to observe what they did. For everyone who receives this award, there are many, more deserving,” Herl said.
“I have failed many times and I help my students who fail, but we’re all failures and God accepts us anyway,” Herl said.
Dr. Herl teaches courses in music history, music theory, liturgy, hymnody and church music. He is also an active composer with compositions and collections published by Oxford University Press, Concordia Publishing House, and MorningStar Music Publishers. Three of his original hymns, 22 hymn settings, one hymn translation and one liturgical setting were included in the “Lutheran Service Book.” His book, “Worship Wars in Early Lutheranism: Choir, Congregation, and the Three Centuries of Conflict,” was published by Oxford University Press and awarded the 2005 Roland Bainton Prize of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference for best book in its field. Herl has served at Concordia for 18 years.
Students nominating Herl remarked, “The recipient is one example of many deserving professors, but despite his extreme humility, [Dr. Herl] is the best teacher I ever had. His passion for the subject matter and his wonderful quirky sense of humor, make him the ideal recipient of this award. His expertise in the field is unparalleled. His students learn from the master. He commits an insane amount of time helping students outside of class. He has a servant heart and is always an example of Christ. I love going to his classes every day.”