MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Shepherd University English professor said she was in disbelief the moment she discovered she was named the 2018 Professor of the Year.

The Faculty Merit Foundation Association presented the award to Dr. Heidi Hanrahan during an April 9 ceremony at the Cultural Center in Charleston. The selection process begins each fall semester when colleges and universities throughout West Virginia submit one professor’s name for consideration.

“Then there’s an application process,” Hanrahan told MetroNews affiliate WEPM. “I wrote an essay, I got a letter of support from a colleague and from a student and sent all of that in. Just before Christmas I learned that I was one of five finalists and then in January I went down and met with the faculty merit foundation for an interview. After that, you sort of sit back and wait until April when they announce the winner.”

“I think I said out loud ‘you got to be kidding me’, because part of the ceremony involves hearing all of the accomplishments of the other finalists,” Hanrahan said. “Boy, were those some worthy people. So it was a very pleasant surprise.”

Hanrahan has a list of accomplishments herself. Since starting her career at Shepherd in 2007, she has held roles with the Gender and Women’s Studies Board, Shepherd University Foundation Board of Directors, Diversity and Equity Committee and served as chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee among other responsibilities.

According to Shepherd’s website, Hanrahan previously taught at the University of Richmond and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She received her bachelors degree in English and History at Roanoke College before gaining her Ph.D. in American Literature before 1900 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Her research and teaching interests include “include nineteenth-century American literature, early American literature, women writers, composition, and nineteenth-century British literature”. Hanrahan has published several articles and is currently working on a project focused on nineteenth-century writers.

Since returning home from Charleston, Hanrahan said the response has been overwhelming.

“The word had gotten out there and people have been just really kind. So many flowers came into my office actually and the door was decorated. If you’ve been to Shepherd you know how wonderful people are here. It’s really the best place to work.”

A $10,000 cash award is also given to the winner. When it comes to what she will do with the extra boost, Hanrahan said she received advice from a former award winner. 2005 Professor of the Year Sonya Evanisko teaches art at Shepherd.

“One of the things she said to me was ‘whatever you do, don’t just use it to pay bills’. So I haven’t decided yet. I’ve got maybe some home improvements I’d like to make. That maybe doesn’t sound like fun but it might be nice to just pay it off.”

Other finalists are given awards in smaller amounts.