Pinanski Prize

Marta Ranier and Susan Skeath stand on the commencement stage while President Johnson reads their citations

Citations for the 2022 Pinanski Prize winners

Tracy McAskill, lecturer in physics

Tracy McAskill’s students know her as a careful and thorough lecturer who describes abstract and sometimes counterintuitive concepts in clear, vivid language. They praise her ability to structure material elegantly both within each lecture and across the entire arc of the semester. 

“Dr. McAskill cares about us not just as students in her physics class, but as human beings,” said one student. “Her dedication shows in everything she does,” said another. 

Several nominators shared that her quantum mechanics class was one of their favorite courses at Wellesley. Others described her as an invaluable mentor, highlighting her enthusiasm and willingness to offer counsel regarding the graduate school application process and academic and career plans. 

Tracy McAskill also goes above and beyond to ensure that her classroom is a welcoming space, both for those who are certain that physics is their calling and for those who are new to the field. As one student who previously felt out of place in physics class put it, “Dr. McAskill, despite not knowing me at the time, advised me, helped me feel more comfortable, and helped me develop confidence that I could be a physics major. She ultimately confirmed my decision to major in physics.”

For her exemplary instruction and supportive mentorship, and the positive impact she has had on students’ learning and understanding of physics, it is an honor to present Tracy McAskill with the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize.

Marta Rainer ’98, lecturer in theatre studies and director of theatre and theatre studies

Students and faculty alike praise Marta Rainer ’98 for her inspirational leadership of theatre studies at Wellesley. “Marta really is Wellesley to me,” said one student. “She is an alumna who went into the world and accomplished so much personally, professionally, and artistically, and came back to ensure Wellesley students were prepared for success.” She is known for encouraging students to discover and strengthen their voices as artists and performers. Multiple nominators described her as warm-hearted, generous, and thoughtful. 

“Marta Rainer’s teaching is the reason I joined the Theatre Studies Program,” said one student. “The most formative classes I have ever taken at Wellesley have been her courses.”

Marta Rainer has spearheaded the College’s annual Theatre Studies Showcase and brought students to Washington to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

“When I expressed reservations about submitting my work to the festival, she was quick to reassure me and was able to convince me to submit,” one student said. “Thanks to her, two other students and I won regional awards for our design, and were able to continue on to the national festival, where we had the chance to meet with professionals in our respective fields and get feedback in a way we would never have without her support and encouragement.”  

When the pandemic struck, Marta Rainer found innovative ways to continue her work, bringing students and faculty together to produce an entirely virtual play. “She made space for a first-year who had never done theatre at Wellesley to design a mainstage production under uniquely challenging circumstances, and I will be forever grateful to her for that,” said one student. 

For inspiring students to study theatre, creating a safe and inclusive environment for emerging artists on and off stage, and expanding the opportunities available to theatre students at Wellesley, it is an honor to present Marta Rainer with the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize.

Susan Skeath, professor of economics

Since arriving at Wellesley in 1989, Professor Susan Skeath has shaped the lives of generations of Wellesley economics majors. She has taught Economics 201: Intermediate Microeconomic Analysis, a mathematically rigorous course central to the major, almost every semester of her distinguished career. Her colleagues estimate that in her 33 years at the College she has taught nearly half of the students who have graduated with an economics degree.

Professor Skeath is known as an extremely organized instructor and clear lecturer. As one colleague said, “Her planning for the use of the blackboard is so exceptional that she rarely has to erase.” Her meticulousness is especially valuable in Economics 201, where she teaches central concepts from economic theory and applies them using a challenging range of mathematical, verbal, and graphic methods. 

Students and faculty speak highly of Professor Skeath’s class structure and her variety of learning approaches, such as flipped classrooms, course videos she has developed herself, and active learning exercises for small groups, as well as themed class days, such as problem solving Wednesdays. Said one colleague: “The thoughtfulness of [her] materials, the way she constantly tweaks them to learn from each use and improve them, and the attention she pays to the needs of every student in the classroom combine to provide Professor Skeath’s students with an extraordinary economics education.”

For her curricular innovation, her drive to ensure all her students are deeply engaged, and her impact on decades of Wellesley economics majors, it is an honor to present Professor Susan Skeath with the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Prize.