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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.

Richard L. Blatti
Associate Professor
School of Music

Richard L. Blatti is “not only a good teacher, but a wise individual” who genuinely cares about his students. Colleagues admire his honesty and enthusiasm, and his creative teaching methods help students better understand concepts so that they can become better performers and conductors. For example, Blatti once took his entire class to the RPAC swimming pool to help students have a sense of the motion and expressiveness of conducting. He has performed throughout the United States, Canada, China, Asia, and Europe and has been a member of several professional music associations. Blatti is known for his friendly nature and positive attitude, as well as his passion for the field. He challenges students both in class and in life and encourages them to find their own individual styles and think for themselves. Blatti received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his master’s degree with honors from Northwestern University. He came to Ohio State in 1989.

Ann D. Christy
Associate Professor
Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering

A very knowledgeable, confident, and caring professor, Ann Christy goes above and beyond to help students, both inside and out of the classroom. “She broke down technical concepts into terms that everyone could understand,” says one student. “She could make even the driest mandatory material seem vibrant and fascinating by using methods such as taking our HVAC design class on tours of the greenhouses and the veterinary hospital to observe agricultural ventilation systems in action.” Christy’s concern for students and creative application methods make her a top choice of students. She has served as an advisor for many undergraduate and graduate students and has been a member of several scientific, professional, and honorary societies. She has won more than 15 teaching and service awards, and her work has been published in more than 70 education and technical publications. Christy earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Ohio State and her doctorate from Clemson University in 1991. She began teaching at Ohio State in 1996.

Douglas B. Downey
Department of Sociology

Douglas Downey is “not only very knowledgeable in his subject field, but conducts a classroom atmosphere that encourages creativity, classroom participation, and enthusiasm,” writes one nominator. He is passionate about his lectures and helping students, in addition to his research studies. As another notes, “Dr. Downey’s knowledge in the field of sociology of education, his distinguished publications in the highest echelon of academia, and his obvious outstanding in-class teaching highlight his versatility in assuming the multiple hats of teacher, researcher, mentor, and doing all of them very well.” Downey has published in more than 20 journals and other publications and has received more than 20 grants and awards. He received his bachelor’s degree from Anderson University, and his master’s and Ph.D. from Indiana University. He joined Ohio State in 1994.

Janet S. Fink
Associate Professor
School of Physical Activity and Educational Services

Janet Fink “has a passion for teaching and a connection with all of her students,” a nominator writes. Fink goes the extra mile to help support and advise her students. She is known by students as a knowledgeable mentor and by faculty as a respected colleague. Another nominator writes, “Her multi-faceted involvement over the years with the university, college, and department has made her invaluable in shaping a set of courses that serve students who intend to work in the sports industry. Dr. Fink has demonstrated the kind of outstanding teaching skills both in and out of the classroom that render her favored among many students in sports management.” Her work has been widely published in peer-reviewed journals, reviews, abstracts, presentations, bulletins, and reports. In addition, she has supervised 12 dissertations. Fink received her bachelor’s (1988), master’s (1994), and doctorate (1997) degrees from Ohio State and began teaching at the university in 1999.

Marcus J. Kurtz
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science

Marcus Kurtz “is encouraging and exemplifies all of the good qualities of teaching,” writes one student. “Not only is this because of his excellent teaching ability, but he also takes the time to mentor on a one-on-one basis.” Kurtz breaks down challenging material so that students understand and are enthusiastic about it. “He encouraged students to engage in independent thought and critical analysis of the arguments presented,” says another student. “His teaching style and presentation of the material allowed me to develop a deeper connection and understanding of the subject matter.” Kurtz’s publications include a book, numerous peer-reviewed articles, journal volumes, and book reviews, and he has given more than 30 papers and presentations. Kurtz received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1988. He completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989 and 1996, respectively, and joined Ohio State in October 2000.

Alan C. Michaels
Edwin M. Cooperman Designated Professor in Law
Moritz College of Law

“Very engaging lecturer and skilled in the Socratic method to illicit [sic] appropriate responses from students,” is what one student says of Alan Michaels. “Michaels is well respected by students and one of the few teachers you felt comfortable just talking to.” Another student writes, “He doesn’t just teach the black letter law, but actually delves into the gray areas, encouraging and criticizing arguments from all sides of an issue.” Michaels’ excellence extends beyond the classroom, as he has served many times as a presenter and panelist for various law programs, and his work has been published in abstracts, articles, and book chapters. Michaels obtained his A.B. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1983. He received his J.D. from Columbia University Law School in 1986 and worked for the U.S. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as well as the District Attorney’s office of New York. He came to Ohio State in 1995.

James Phelan
Humanities Distinguished Professor
Department of English

James Phelan “is the kind of teacher that makes you work harder than you’ve ever worked before, the kind that demands and receives your very best work,” says one student. “I admire his incisive comments on papers, his passion for teaching, his unflagging devotion, and loyalty to his students.” Phelan takes a more indepth approach to his material, forcing students to think on their own. “Dr. Phelan has a vast degree of knowledge but conveys it to you in a way that you understand. He is not dogmatic; instead he allows you to work with him and together create understanding,” another notes. Phelan has published six books and more than 75 essays and has co-edited two textbooks. He also holds editorial positions for several journals and publications on literature. Phelan received his undergraduate degree from Boston College in 1972. He graduated with a master’s degree in 1973 from the University of Chicago, where he also earned his doctorate. Phelan began working at Ohio State in 1977.

Franklin Proaño
Department of Comparative Studies in the Humanities
Marion Campus

Both humble and personable, Franklin Proaño teaches classes that students say are “motivating, engaging, and thought-provoking.” “What I enjoyed most about his classes was his ability to think from another perspective and explain it in a way that made sense,” says one student. “This allowed us to simplify bigger ideas in the text, which in turn allowed us to come to our own conclusions and understanding.” But, as another student writes, Proaño “isn’t there to merely lecture. He is there to support students in any way he can.” Proaño received his bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in Quito, Ecuador, in 1956. He received a master’s degree from both Instituto Superior de Humanidades Clasicas in 1958 and also from Colegio Maximo de Filosofia in 1961. He earned his Ph.D. in humanities from Catholic University in Quito and earned another doctorate from Ohio State in 1971. He began teaching at Ohio State Marion in 1976.

Heather Webb
Assistant Professor
Department of French and Italian

Heather Webb is brilliant both in her knowledge of Italian and literature and her ability to teach it to students. “She is the spark in the humanities department that sets students’ passion for languages ablaze,” writes one student. “Professor Webb exemplifies the qualities of leadership, enthusiasm, and passion for her profession. She pushed us to grow as students, not to settle for the bare minimum, but rather to think and analyze the material.” Says another student, “Professor Webb is a very understanding teacher and explains the subject matter well. She is a professor who truly cares about her students… we are not just a number in her class.” Along with being a great teacher, Webb has several published works and has participated in more than 15 panels, lectures, and presentations in her field. Webb received her B.A. with highest honors in literary studies from Middlebury College in 1998 and earned her Ph.D. in Italian from Stanford University in June 2004, the same year she came to Ohio State.

Brian L. Winer
Department of Physics

Enthusiastic, organized, and always willing to help, Brian Winer is a stand-out in the physics department and the university as a whole, according to his students and colleagues. Says one student, “Professor Winer is a very dedicated instructor, who seems to genuinely care about the material and the students. He was very responsive to student feedback and questions, and would vary his teaching style to ensure the understanding of the greatest possible number of students.” Another writes, “Unlike some who just do the minimum required, Professor Winer invested much time into the physics class. He did a great job covering the material needed and challenging the class.” In addition to his excellence in the classroom, Winer is supportive and helpful to students after hours. He is also an accomplished researcher. He has been published in approximately 300 publications and has won several awards and honors for his work. Winer earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1986 and his master’s (1989) and Ph.D. (1991) degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Ohio State in 1996.

2007 Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching


Previous winners

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