60 years of celebrating excellence in undergraduate teachingBy Jennifer Vanasco
A t Chicago, "one feels that if you really like teaching and you want to be involved with students in a direct way, it's not only encouraged -- it's honored," said Paul Sally, Professor in Mathematics and a 1995 Quantrell Award winner.
It is this sort of sentiment that is honed at the University, most notably through one of the nation's oldest teaching prizes, the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
It is also this sentiment that makes the University virtually unique among its peers. A recent study by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching concluded that research universities deny undergraduates the best education available by placing them almost exclusively in large lecture classes taught by graduate students. The same study cited Chicago as a noteworthy exception.
Over the past 60 years, the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching has been presented to 235 faculty members. Of the current University faculty members who teach undergraduates, 68 have received the prize. The recipients are nominated by the students they teach.
"I treat these students as if they were master's students. Many students have told me that they thrive on it and that it has made a great difference in their careers," said Stephen Pruett-Jones, Associate Professor in Ecology & Evolution, upon receiving the Quantrell Award in 1995. "I really care about teaching undergraduates -- it's both a great responsibility and a great pleasure -- and to have this is just incredible," said Nobel Prize-winner James Cronin, University Professor Emeritus in Physics, who, when he won the Quantrell Award in 1996, said he was "bowled over to be receiving this Quantrell prize."
The Quantrell Award began in 1938 with a gift from an anonymous donor, later revealed to be Ernest Quantrell, who then named the award in honor of his parents. Quantrell, an alumnus, trustee and life-long advocate of excellence in teaching, considered the Chicago faculty to be "one of the greatest faculties in the history of American education."
Spurred by his generosity and vision, the University has continued to recognize the teaching success of its faculty every year, fulfilling the hopes of Quantrell, who said, "The success of a university depends on . . . students trained to lead happy, proficient, useful and unselfish lives. To obtain this product, a good faculty is essential, and constitutes the most important part of a university." For a complete list of Quantrell Award winners, see pages 5-8. For articles and photos about recent recipients, see www-news.uchicago.edu/college/people/Quantrell/Page/Quantrell.html, which also can be found as Award-Winning Teachers under the Undergraduate College link on the University's home page, www.uchicago.edu.