Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thurnau Professors attend 25th anniversary celebration

Sixty winners of the university's highest award for undergraduate education, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships, gathered to mark the 25th anniversary of this distinguished award Monday.

  Provost Phil Hanlon congratulates Sadashi Inuzuka, professor of art, one of this years Arthur F. Thurnau Professors. (Photo by Eric Bronson, U-M Photo Services)

The celebration at the Michigan League Ballroom also honored this year's awardees:

• Joseph Bull, associate professor of biomedical engineering, College of Engineering

• Michael L. Haithcock, professor of music, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

• Sadashi Inuzuka, professor of art, School of Art & Design

• Bradford Orr, chair, Department of Physics, and professor of physics, LSA

• Brian Porter-Szücs, professor of history, LSA

• Steven Skerlos, associate professor of mechanical engineering and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, CoE

"At Michigan we are so fortunate that many of our top faculty are Thurnau Professors," said Constance Cook, associate vice provost for academic affairs and executive director of the Center for Research on Learning & Teaching (CRLT), in opening the program.

Cook noted that several of U-M's top administrators are Thurnau Professors. They include Provost Phil Hanlon, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Lester Monts, LSA Dean Terrence J. McDonald, and CoE Associate Dean James Holloway.

Hanlon told the gathering, "The Thurnau Professorship program has elevated the status of undergraduate teaching on this campus because of the leadership and accomplishments of all of you." U-M has its biggest impact by preparing undergraduates to be leaders in the world, he added.

Thurnau professors have boosted U-M's reputation, said Monts, who also is professor of music and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs. "They are all outstanding teachers, and they make substantial contributions to undergraduate education" by creating and teaching innovative courses, leading efforts to restructure the curriculum, recruiting a diverse and excellent student body, and by developing community partnerships, he said.

Dana Muir, professor of business law in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, said she felt connected to a community of educators when she was named a Thurnau Professor in 2008, and began attending the semi-annual Provost's Seminars on Teaching and working with CRLT. "The University of Michigan's commitment to undergraduate education is so important in today's society as our undergraduates are going to be tomorrow's business leaders," she said.

Ken Powell, Thurnau Professor and professor of aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering, said the honor also connected him to other Thurnau Professors. "We talk about how we teach and engage students," he said.

Jim Adams, professor of economics and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics, LSA, said that when he was named a Thurnau professor in 1991, "I was deeply moved because it made me feel an intense pride in being at an institution that institutionalizes its service to teaching."

Robin Queen, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures and associate professor of linguistics, LSA, was named a Thurnau Professor in 2010. "It's actually very humbling. You realize that a lot of people support you," she said.

James Wilkes, Thurnau Professor and professor emeritus of chemical engineering, CoE, said the money provided by the Thurnau Professorship helped him hire students to work on two historical book manuscripts.

Bradford Orr, one of this year's honorees and associate director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine & Biological Science, said that since he was named a Thurnau Professor, he has been inspired to think of developing a class for sophomores on the physics of sports.

Since the program began, 147 faculty members have been named Arthur F. Thurnau Professors. Thurnau was a U-M student from 1902-04 who wished to return to the university something of the value he gained from being a U-M undergraduate. The professorships are supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust, which was established through his will.

Five or six tenured faculty members are designated annually as Thurnau professors and hold this title for the remainder of their U-M careers. They receive a $20,000 grant to support activities to enhance teaching.

A group of Thurnau Professors attending Monday's 25th anniversary celebration pose for a group photo. (Photo by Eric Bronson, U-M Photo Services)