In 1967 a few enterprising Ohio University students came up with the idea to rate the professors on campus. From this process they developed a list of the top ten professors on campus. That year they sent out a formal letter to the professors on their list and it’s from their initiative that the University Professor award took shape. Two years later a new group of students took up the torch and took on the task of rating all the professors on campus, comprising them into a booklet.
That activities caught the attention of the University and after witnessing the importance to students of recognizing professors for their teaching, a few administrators took the students’ idea and formalized it into the University professor Award. The actual award was originally sketched out by Assistant Vice-president for Academic Affairs Jim Perotti and a faculty member named Harvey Stedman in 1970. From there the award was housed in the Vice-president of Academic Affairs office. In the first year the students voted on their favorite professors. The finalists were then each interviewed by a committee comprised of only students who went on to select the first class of University Professors: James Bruning, Richard Doolen, and Edgar Whan.
The award’s strength has always been its reflection of student perspectives on teaching and learning. While awards for teaching emanate from professional associations, colleges and universities, the meaningfulness of this award comes from the role of students in deciding it, as recipient Bruning noted recently when interviewed about the award: “The award has always meant a lot to me, but it means very much to me today. It means a lot because it is a more personal award than a professional award. This is because it comes from an outside point of view, where as most awards comes from our peers.”
Since its founding in 1970, the University Professor program has recognized over one hundred professors for their teaching excellence. Each fall quarter the students nominate professors to be considered for the award and then a selection committee, comprised entirely of undergraduate students, meet with the ten finalists and observe each of them in class. Recipients of the honor are announced by the Provost in early spring. A commemorative plaque listing all past University Professors was unveiled in October 1982, and will remain on permanent display on the wall outside of University College in Chubb Hall. The University Professor program also provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to directly influence the university curriculum and to reward outstanding faculty members for their excellence as teachers.
Ohio University is proud of its pioneering approach to recognizing and rewarding excellence teaching. Newcomers to the university can look forward to joining a tradition that honors both professors and students for their active participation in the continuing dialogue about the purpose, goals and structure of education