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Ohio State University logo Recognizing Excellence

Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching

The Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching honors faculty members for superior teaching. Recipients are nominated by present and former students and colleagues and are chosen by a committee of alumni, students, and faculty. They receive a cash award of $3000, made possible by contributions from the Alumni Association, friends of Ohio State, and the Office of Academic Affairs. They also receive a $1,200 increase in their base salaries from the Office of Academic Affairs. The recipients will be inducted into the university's Academy of Teaching, which provides leadership for the improvement of teaching at Ohio State.

Recognizing Excellence at Ohio State

Current University Awards winners

Previous University Awards winners

Click on photo or scroll down the page to read winner's bio.

Anne L. Bower
Associate Professor
Department of English, Marion

One student nominator raved highly about Anne L. Bower as her instructor, saying Bower’s role as a motivating and ethical professional, combined with her inventive teaching style, have helped her “see and learn many new ways to look at and learn from the human condition, and understand how important it is to define and redefine one’s thoughts and learn how to express them.” Considered an enthusiastic and encouraging instructor, Bower is willing to listen and learn from her students and look at things from a different perspective, making her a favorite among her students. She consistently receives high praise from students, and, at the same time, they appreciate and learn from the challenges she presents; she takes time to give guidance and help when they need it most and has provided many with relevant and helpful advising. Bower’s students also appreciate the service learning and outreach and engagement aspects of her courses, which range from tutoring to working with nonprofit agencies. Her extensive contributions to Marion’s surrounding communities have gained the support of both Bower’s colleagues and students. Bower received her Ph.D. in English from West Virginia University and joined the Ohio State faculty in 1990.

Bruce Hermann
Assistant Professor
Department of Theatre

According to one nominator, being in the classroom of Bruce Hermann “is like engaging with a living textbook, his knowledge and experience providing students with much more than a printed text ever could.” A student of Hermann noted he pushes students to their highest potential through his kindness and dedication. In everything he does, from his multi-dimensional classroom teaching to working individually with his undergraduate and graduate advisees, Hermann’s complete commitment to his students’ success sets him apart from other instructors. Another important aspect of Hermann’s teaching has been his involvement in developing a new curriculum for the MFA in acting. Additionally, Hermann serves as a role model for his students, as his creative research is his active participation as an actor and director at both local and national levels. His unique performance and teaching style comes from his experience studying with one of this country’s acknowledged master teachers of acting, Sanford Meisner. The innovative Meisner technique uses a series of exercises to create an atmosphere conducive to each actor’s personal development, rather than teaching the students “how” to act. Hermann received his M.F.A. in directing from Virginia Commonwealth University and joined the Ohio State faculty in 1998.

Richard E. Hughes
Associate Professor
Department of Physics

Considered to be an exceptional educator by his students, one student in particular said Richard E. Hughes “was excellent in class, very helpful and available outside of class, and fun to be around.” Hughes’ passion for the subject matter and genuine interest in and willingness to accommodate his students set him apart from other instructors. One student commented, “I’ve yet to have another teacher as enthusiastic and interesting.” Another student noted, “Dr. Hughes’ great communication skills, combined with his sharp sense of humor, made him the most interesting lecturer I’ve ever had.” Hughes has proven himself an outstanding educator since joining the university in 1996, demonstrating a mastery of a variety of teaching techniques and styles in the breadth of courses he has taught within the Department of Physics. In addition, he has had a long history of curriculum development and reform in the department and has developed many materials still used in laboratory courses. Outside of the university, Hughes is a world leader in experimental particle physics and studying the fundamental symmetries of nature and has shown himself to be a master of relating the very small (particle physics) to the very large (astrophysics). Hughes received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Gary L. Kinzel
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Gary L. Kinzel is a well-respected scholar in the field of mechanical engineering and, over the last two decades, has been primarily responsible for the use of computers in mechanical engineering education through the development and dissemination of software and computer-aided design curricula to companies as well as other academic institutions. Students rank Kinzel among the best teachers at Ohio State because of his friendly and approachable demeanor, as well as his enthusiastic teaching and guidance. They also appreciate the physical examples of course material and the attention to detail he brings into classroom lectures. One nominator commented that Kinzel’s teaching style is “professionalism at its very best.” Kinzel was the recipient of the Mechanical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1997, Ohio State’s College of Engineering Ralph L. Boyer Award for Excellence in Teaching Innovation in 1998, and the university’s College of Engineering Harrison Faculty Award for Excellence in Engineering Education in 1986. Kinzel holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University and joined the Ohio State Faculty in 1978.

Mitchell Lerner
Associate Professor
Department of History, Newark

Mitchell Lerner’s unique approach to teaching has made him a favorite among his students. He is one of the best professors, according to one student, while another writes, “he is enthusiastic and upbeat, and very interested in the material he teaches.” As one student put it, “he is a great example of what an instructor should be.” Lerner has taught a mix of lower-level and upper-level history courses and has contributed significantly to course development at Ohio State Newark by creating two timely and popular one-credit-hour courses, “The U.S. and the Crisis in Afghanistan” and “The U.S. and the War in Iraq.” Both of these have drawn large numbers of students. A nominator noted that in all the courses he teaches, Lerner produces the typical amount of visual teaching aids, but makes good use of technology to cultivate an atmosphere that spurs student interest. Additionally, winning the 2002 Lyman Award for the Best Work of Naval History, receiving a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, and earning a Distinguished Fulbright Chair stand as testaments to the value of Lerner’s scholarship, which his Ohio State Newark colleagues recognized by giving him the 2004 Scholarly Accomplishment Award. Lerner received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and joined the Ohio State faculty in 2000.

G. Bruce Mainland
Department of Physics, Newark

In the eyes of one of his students, G. Bruce Mainland is “part professor and part cheerleader.” The student emphasized that his enthusiasm for physics and patient and approachable attitude with students are what set him apart from other instructors. Nearly every nominator of Mainland for the 2005 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching echoed these sentiments. His dedication to his students is evident not only in the praise of his students, but also in the course work offered at Ohio State Newark. Mainland develops many of the items needed for experiments and classroom demonstrations, and, in 2002, he prepared materials that allowed Ohio State Newark to offer Physics 104 for the very first time. He also has been instrumental in implementation of lower-level engineering courses at the Newark campus. Mainland continually contributes to the university by presenting at recruiting events and serving on important committees at the Newark campus. Additionally, Mainland received the Faculty Service Award in 1994 for his contributions to the campus and received the Provost’s Award for Scholarship Excellence in 1986 in recognition of the high quality of his research. Mainland holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Texas at Austin and joined the Newark faculty in 1975.

Kendra McSweeney
Assistant Professor
Department of Geography

Undergraduate and graduate students alike consistently complimented the courses they enjoyed in the classroom of Kendra McSweeney. Many students and instructors praised her innovative and engaging teaching methods and the incorporation of her research and interest in Latin American issues into the more general classes she teaches. One nominator referred to McSweeney as “an excellent example of a professor who combines her research and teaching to provide learning opportunities for her students.” Several students noted that her enthusiasm and effort set her classes apart from others, and McSweeney’s sincere interest shines through her dedication to her students and the geography program, both inside and outside the classroom. She has played a vital role in the re-establishment of the geography club and serves as faculty advisor for Ohio State Students for Labor and Economic Justice. In addition, McSweeney writes regularly for academic research literature and extends her interest in scholarly writing to the larger community through her work with general interest publications, including the magazine Focus, a publication distributed to geography donors and alumni. McSweeney joined the Ohio State geography faculty in 2001 and earned her Ph.D. in geography from McGill University.

Maurice E. Stevens
Assistant Professor
Department of Comparative Studies

According to many of his students, Maurice E. Stevens’ ability to stimulate and challenge his students while maintaining their excitement and enthusiasm about course material sets him apart from other teachers. One commented, “Regardless of where a student is in his or her engagement of materials, Professor Stevens challenges, prods and creates an environment where students can go beyond their thinking to new levels of critical engagement.” Stevens has taught a wide range of courses during his nearly three years at Ohio State, including lower-division GEC courses and courses for the undergraduate major and graduate seminars. His colleagues are impressed with his ability to teach difficult material, to insist upon the best work from his students, and to move gracefully from lecture to discussion. Both Stevens’ student nominators and colleagues compliment and appreciate his patience and individualized attention. One student praised Stevens’ teaching style, “allowing and encouraging students to do better and think critically, not just for a grade, but for themselves.” Another student nominator referred to Stevens’ class as the most rewarding course he had ever taken, commending Stevens’ varied but relevant teaching methods, as well as his effective facilitation of discussion on difficult and controversial issues. Stevens received his Ph.D. in history of consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

James N. Upton
Associate Professor
Department of African American and African Studies

Described by several students as a passionate and insightful instructor, James N. Upton is a well-respected and internationally recognized scholar in African American and African studies. One student nominator complimented Upton’s encouraging teaching methods and the welcoming climate his classroom creates for alternative views and perspectives. Upton’s classes have left profound impacts on the lives of his students, and one student referred to Upton’s course as “phenomenal” and helpful in learning to understand society. Upton’s students are inspired by his humility and understanding. Another student nominator recognized Upton’s willingness to provide one-on-one attention for his students, saying he “is never too busy to sit down and discuss course work, university concerns, career plans or other things that would enhance the university experience.” In addition to his teaching duties, Upton also served as chair of the Undergraduate Studies Curriculum Committee from 2000-04, supervising a major revision of the undergraduate curriculum, which is now better organized, coherent, streamlined, and user-friendly. Upton also has been vital to the department at the graduate level, as the Research Methods course he developed and taught for 21 years is required for all of the department’s graduate students. Upton received his Ph.D. in political science from Ohio State.

Susan S. Williams
Associate Professor
Department of English

According to one student, Susan S. Williams is “a model of teaching excellence and a true mentor; her academic service, mentoring guidance and dedication to reading and reviewing student work is unsurpassed.” These words of praise were echoed in the recommendations of other students, who also cited her dedication to students and the level of engagement in her classroom as characteristics distinguishing her from other professors at Ohio State. A student nominator expressed appreciation for Williams, saying she “possesses not only the knowledge of a scholar, but also the wisdom of a teacher.” Another noted that she serves as “an excellent model for a teacher who is passionately devoted to her career” and “who balances her research interests with instruction and mentoring students.” Both students and colleagues note Williams’ inspiring and tireless service to the Department of English, as she has helped design and implement new courses, as well as re-shape the American literature curriculum, including revamping survey courses. As former director of graduate studies, she helped to shape the department’s graduate program, making changes to the M.A. and Ph.D. examination formats and making the dissertation seminar an annual event. Williams joined the Ohio State faculty in 1991, after receiving her Ph.D. in English from Yale University.

2005 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching


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