Dr. Maher’s exceptional work on behalf of the English department and the University has not gone unnoticed. In 1997, Dr. Maher earned the University Excellence in Teaching award, which came with a $1,500 scholarship. This award was “established in 1969 to recognize superior efforts, dedication and exemplary conduct in the performance of the University’s first task—the education of its students” (“Excellence”). That same year, Dr. Maher won the Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award in Arts and Sciences, which honors distinguished teaching in the classroom. In 2007, students and colleagues nominated Dr. Maher for the Mary Ann Lamanna Award for Excellence in Women’s Studies. This award “recognizes extraordinary service” to the UNO Women’s Studies Program and “can involve teaching, research/creative activity or service” (Kahdahl 1). Dr. Maher was recognized in all three areas. This award was especially humbling for Dr. Maher as she was nominated by not only her colleagues and friends but her students as well. In their nomination, one student wrote that Dr. Maher “often teaches courses focused on female authors—from Jane Austen to Willa Cather to current writers—and encourages her students to submit papers to major conferences. Of her students at that time, nine had continued into Ph.D. programs and countless others have attended scholarly meetings” (qtd. in Kaldahl 1). Dr. Maher’s dedicated interest in her students’ achievements is commendable as showcased by the award.
Also in 2007, Dr. Maher won the prestigious Peter Kiewit Professorship in English. The Peter Kiewit Professorship is awarded based on outstanding performance in research/creative activity and teaching and recognizes both a nominee’s professional scholarship as well as their teaching. This award comes with an annual $5,000 stipend that allows recipients the funding needed to continue valuable research and production in ongoing scholarship. Since receiving the award, Dr. Maher, along with co-editor Thomas P. Lynch, completed a book contract with the University of Nebraska press for the publication of Artifacts and Illuminations: Critical Essays on Loren Eisley. She also published four articles in scholarly journals. Dr. Maher held the professorship for three consecutive years. Dr. Maher also achieved national recognition in 2008 when she received the Susan J. Rosowski Award for outstanding teaching and creative mentoring from the Western Literature Association. (Western Literature Association) According to its website, “the Western Literature Association (WLA) is a non-profit, scholarly association that promotes the study of the diverse literature and cultures of the North American West, past and present” (“About”). Named for long-time WLA member and University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Adele Hall University Professor, Susan J. Rosowski, the award recognizes “outstanding teachers and mentors in the field of western American literature” (“About”).
As UNO prepared for its Centennial Anniversary in 2008, Dr. Maher found herself on a taskforce with friend and colleague, Dr. Deborah Smith-Howell. As they leafed through archive pictures stored in the UNO library, Dr. Maher was awed by the multitude of photographs from early in UNO’s history that showed women studying and learning. In the early 1900s, women lived in a culture that discouraged their attendance at college. Dr. Maher was fascinated with the documentation that showed women furthering their education despite social mores. That is when the idea came to her—what if, during this spirit of commemoration, we honor those women who regularly negotiated barriers in order to achieve their dreams of a higher education? Originally, Dr. Maher envisioned one hundred profiles—one for each year of UNO’s history—believing this was an innovative way to highlight the history of