The University Record, February 18, 2002

Six faculty honored for undergraduate teaching

By Wono Lee
News and Information Services

The regents, at their Feb. 14 meeting, named six faculty members to the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, which “recognizes and rewards faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.”

Those honored were Annette W. LeCuyer, associate professor of architecture; Edward L. Parmentier, professor of music; Kenneth Grant Powell, professor of aerospace engineering; Paul G. Rasmussen, professor of chemistry, and of macromolecular science and engineering; Robert H. Sharf, associate professor of Buddhist studies; and Elliot Soloway, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, of education, and of information.

The Thurnau Professorships, named after Arthur F. Thurnau, a U-M student in 1902–04, are supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust established through his will. The University each year selects faculty members who are designated as Thurnau Professors for a three-year term. They receive a grant to support their teaching activities.

LeCuyer, after working for architectural practices of international stature, joined the U-M faculty in 1994 “to integrate her interests in theory and practice and the art of construction within a university setting,” said Interim Provost Paul N. Courant. “In ways unprecedented in recent studio teaching, she elevates the status of construction, teamwork, and client negotiation to the level of art, a status these activities have rarely enjoyed in academia. This is no small pedagogic achievement in a subject that is perennially unpopular in most architecture schools. When her students work in teams, even greater skill and coordination are demanded of the students and of her as a teacher.”

Parmentier is “a world-renowned early music expert and harpsichordist who devotes immense energy to teaching and to building a sense of community among the musicians he trains,” Courant said. “His impact upon the undergraduate population at the School of Music has been remarkable, attested to by the letters of recommendation from both students and colleagues. Students describe him as one who sets extremely high standards for his ensembles, taking no less than the best from each member. He is considered one of the most well prepared and musical professors at the School of Music.”

Powell, “a most exceptional undergraduate educator in the College of Engineering, has had a far-reaching impact on many hundreds of students. He has deeply influenced the educational environment and, as an innovative pedagogical expert, he has had a significant impact on developing and implementing new and revised curricula in the first-year engineering courses, and in aerospace engineering. Throughout his dossier are woven threads that portray a teacher who inspires excellence in his students and who is committed to creating optimal learning experiences for his students. One example of his pedagogical expertise was his complete revision of a capstone course on airplane design.”

Rasmussen is “an excellent lecturer, a superb mentor, an innovative instructor and an energetic contributor in diverse ways to the many teaching facets of a large science department,” Courant said. “He has a legacy of 35 years of outstanding teaching to undergraduates, especially first-year students. He is a charismatic lecturer to large classes, such as encountered in Chemistry 130. In the classic mold of a ‘true’ teacher, he raises the motivation and achievements of the class by aiming the intellectual level somewhat beyond the ‘average student.’ Few faculty in chemistry have taught as wide a variety of courses, including general chemistry, analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and organic/polymer chemistry.”

Sharf is “the principal architect behind the reshaping of the undergraduate curriculum in Asian Studies, arguing for a broader audience and outlook for this important field. His undergraduate teaching has brought the highest level of excellence to courses on Asian religions. He has developed a wide range of important undergraduate courses on the religions of China and Japan and has been actively committed to excellence in the study of religion. In the past year, he has taken a leading role on the dean’s committee that is currently evaluating the undergraduate curriculum in religion. Within the department, he was the principal architect of the new plan to reshape the undergraduate curriculum, both in the general course offerings and in the restructuring of the concentration program.”

Soloway “has earned wide respect for his interdisciplinary scholarship, his inspired teaching, his pedagogical craftsmanship and his computational software tools. His contributions to the undergraduate program and the care he has shown over the years to undergraduate students have been exemplary. He has become a legend in the undergraduate student community—the professor who makes learning fun and who energizes students with his sheer enthusiasm and passion for teaching and learning. He connects students to the broader social context of their work so they can understand why the material they are learning or projects they are developing are important. His research agenda is devoted to education, and therefore his research and teaching missions are inherently intertwined.”