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Black Hills State University photography professor Steve Babbitt, far left, is surprised by BHSU President Dr. Kay Schallenkamp and Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, with this year's Distinguished Faculty Award. 
When Steve Babbitt walked into his classroom Wednesday and saw Black Hills State University President Dr. Kay Schallenkamp and Dr. Rod Custer, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, many things began running through his mind.

“I was wondering if I had missed a meeting or there was a new policy,” says Babbitt, BHSU professor of photography.

The BHSU President and Provost were there to present Babbitt with this year’s Distinguished Faculty Award – an honor bestowed upon Babbitt by his colleagues.

“Steve Babbitt’s enthusiasm and commitment to the study of photography creates an exceptional learning opportunity for Black Hills State University students. Steve is an accomplished photographer and remarkable professor who has shown tremendous dedication to his students, to his craft, and to the arts community in the region,” says Schallenkamp.

Babbitt said he was completely surprised by the honor.  “I cannot stress enough how much of an honor it has been to be recommended by my colleagues, especially given that my colleagues by and large are each deserving of being distinguished.”

Babbitt has been molding the minds of hundreds of BHSU mass communication students for more than 20 years, and has been instrumental in making the University’s photography program the success it is today.

Several letters were received from professors across the many disciplines nominating Babbitt for the award noting his dedication to his students and the BHSU photography program.

 “Students come from near and far to study with Steve,” Dr. Tim Steckline, BHSU associate professor of speech. Steckline was on the committee that screened and hired Babbitt. “The states (these students) originate in are becoming more far-flung every year. We all benefit by this influx of hungry fresh photographers, and the amazing images they create and exhibit.”

Jerry Rawlings, assistant professor of photography, said Babbitt has been instrumental in his own evolution as a teacher. “His accomplishments for the University, the surrounding communities, and most importantly, to his students are substantial, and an inspiration not only to me but also to all that are touched by his compassionate style of teaching,” 

Rawlings also noted that Babbitt is the only photographer granted access to photograph in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). Babbitt has been instrumental in fostering a strong relationship between the University and SURF, and his images are used for public relations purposes for both the lab and BHSU.

 Babbitt is recognized for his professional photography and regularly shows his work in national and international exhibits and encourages his students to do the same.

Babbitt says he loves seeing his students’ enthusiasm for photography. “That’s why I do this. I get to talk about a subject that I’ve loved my whole life, and I get to see the light go on for my students.”

Babbitt earned his both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Fine Arts from San Francisco Art Institute. He joined the faculty at BHSU in 1994.

The BHSU Distinguished Faculty Award is presented each spring to encourage and reward outstanding teaching and professional dedication by faculty members at BHSU. The recipient is formally recognized during the spring commencement ceremony and is invited to deliver a keynote address at the following year’s commencement ceremony. In addition, the recipient receives a monetary award for personal and professional growth.