The University Record, March 6, 2000

Eight named Thurnau Professors

By Wono Lee
News and Information Services

Eight faculty members were named to the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship by the Regents at their February meeting. The professorship “recognizes and rewards faculty for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education.”

Those honored are Susan E. Alcock, associate professor of classical archaeology and classics; Deborah Loewenberg Ball, professor of education; Lorraine M. Gutierrez, associate professor of social work and associate professor of psychology; Michael D. Gordon, professor of computer and information systems;

Robert Krasny, professor of mathematics; H. Robert Reynolds, professor of music (conducting); John Whittier-Ferguson, associate professor of English; Alan S. Wineman, professor of applied mechanics and of macromolecular science and engineering.

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 and who receive a grant to support their teaching activities.

Alcock, since her arrival at the U-M in 1992, “has developed four new courses for undergraduates and two new courses for graduates,” said Provost Nancy Cantor. “Evaluations by both students and colleagues suggest that she is one of the most exciting young teachers of undergraduates in the College, combining showmanship with substance in a truly effective manner. Faculty reports suggest that her outstanding evaluations are not the result of a simplistic or easy style of teaching, but reflect student satisfaction with the way that difficult material is made accessible by a truly gifted teacher.”

Ball has made “a major contribution in preparing undergraduate students in mathematics education by integrating her research into her teaching in highly effective ways,” Cantor said. “She has collaboratively pioneered research into teaching and learning based on the use of primary records of teaching practice. These ideas and methods, and the supporting technology, are now among the most promising approaches to the study and improvement of teaching and learning. They have informed her ongoing practice of elementary teaching, they have inspired her undergraduate students in methods courses, and they have made Prof. Ball a pioneering and visionary national leader in mathematics education.”

Gutierrez is “a superb undergraduate and graduate teacher,” Cantor said. “Her teaching is of exceptionally high quality across an array of courses where culture unfolds as a centerpiece. Her contributions span many settings and types of teaching and benefit both the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychology. She is a remarkable teacher who has been consistently viewed as a role model by her students. She has an uncanny ability to engage students, challenge them, and then help them find their learning styles to better understand and master the course content.”

Gordon is “a highly innovative and effective teacher who has a passion for and dedication to undergraduate education. His teaching is consistently outstanding, and his courses are award winning for their creativity. He has done significant curriculum and program development at the undergraduate level. Recognizing the need for undergraduate students to have excellent preparation in the burgeoning area of information systems, he initiated and led development of the now top-ranked undergraduate Computer and Information Systems (CIS) concentration. He designed the initial three-course sequence of required courses in the concentration and taught the first course.”

Krasny is “a mathematician whose specialty is scientific computing,” Cantor noted. “He brings wisdom and taste to bear on his efforts in curriculum reform and management. He is the department member who is most sensitive to the needs and abilities of engineering and science undergraduates and has been involved in numerous projects aimed at improving course offerings and ensuring that they remain timely, interesting, useful and well taught. His most recent curriculum reform, and the one with impact on the largest number of undergraduates, involves the freshman-sophomore program for scientists and engineers.”

Reynolds, “as conductor of the Symphony Band, Wind Ensemble, and Contemporary Directions Ensemble, touches the lives of more undergraduate music majors than any other faculty member in the School of Music,” the provost noted. “When he rehearses in ensemble, it is a magical event to behold. He teaches ‘Music Theory’ by calling to the attention of his students the various interactions of musical lines from their respective parts, which forces the students to become better listeners and, ultimately, better performers. Most of all, he challenges students to perform at an extraordinarily high level and, without question, the ensembles he conducts are considered to be the elite musical ensembles of their type in the nation.”

Whittier-Ferguson is “a demanding teacher who uses the full scale of grades in all his courses, yet gets, year after year, some of the best student evaluations in the Department of English. He represents a standard few can achieve, and he stands as a model for all,” Cantor said. “He is one of the most gifted, inspired, and respected teachers of undergraduates in the department, which has not gone unnoticed. As director of Undergraduate Studies, director of the English Honors Program, as well as in other capacities, he has tirelessly devoted himself to the reshaping of the undergraduate experience for all students, instituting much-needed curricular reform, meeting with colleagues and students to identify areas of strength and weakness, and establishing new methods of training graduate instructors.”

Wineman is “widely known as an outstanding teacher,” Cantor said. “His history of teaching evaluations is remarkable and reflects not only his teaching style and passion for his subject but a deep respect and care for his students. He has been a mentor to many undergraduates over his 35-year career. As a pedagogical master, he has few peers. His material, often comprising difficult concepts, is presented in a well-structured manner. Prof. Wineman’s greatest impact has been on individual students; he has influenced the intellectual and personal lives of students as they moved into their professional careers.”