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2004 Weiss Presidential Fellows named for outstanding teaching

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ITHACA, N.Y. -- Three Cornell faculty members have been chosen for the 2004 Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships for effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching of undergraduate students. They are T. Michael Duncan, associate professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering; C. Richard Johnson Jr., professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Peter J. Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies, Department of Government.

The awards -- $5,000 for five years for each faculty member -- are named for Stephen H. Weiss '57, emeritus chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees, who endowed the program. They recognize excellence in teaching, advising and outstanding efforts toward instructional improvement and development. The appointed fellows are permitted to hold the title of Weiss fellow simultaneously with any other named professorship.

"Most Cornell professors have a burning need to contribute something of lasting significance to their disciplines and a concomitant desire to share their intellectual passions with students," said Cornell President Jeffrey Lehman. "I am delighted that, because of Steve Weiss' vision and generosity, we have the opportunity each year to honor some of Cornell's most inspiring and effective undergraduate teachers as Weiss Presidential Fellows."

The three faculty members will be honored at an awards dinner, slated for March 10. Biographies of this year's honorees follow.

T. Michael Duncan

Duncan, who joined the Cornell faculty in 1990 and has been the associate director of his school for the last ten years, is known for his keen interest in keeping material fresh and relevant to students while ensuring that it is grounded in scientific fundamentals of chemistry, physics and math. For example, he devises demonstrations, exercises and competitions for first-year engineering students to help them learn engineering design and creative problem solving. He is known as a demanding teacher but as the one students often turn to when they are cin trouble, and alumni often note that he is the professor who had the greatest impact on their development as students and the one that they remember with the greatest fondness and appreciation. Colleagues acknowledge that his talents include being an exceptional teacher, role model, and adviser and a strong influence on the career paths of his students. He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the Tien Prize for Teaching Excellence from the College of Engineering, the Paramount Professor Award from the Cornell Panhellenic and Interfraternity Council in 1995 and 2001, respectively, the Tau Beta Pi/Cornell Society of Engineers Award for Teaching Excellence in 1997, and an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2000 and 2001 from the College of Engineering. He has been named a Merrill Presidential Scholar Mentor six times.

CRichard Johnson

Johnson, who began teaching at Cornell in 1981, has earned a reputation as a professor who not only serves as a leader in electrical and computer engineering but also as a mentor who gets involved with undergraduates and changes their lives for the better. He is considered a demanding, involved and thorough teacher who challenges his students with significant design projects and who brings his research experience into the classroom. His students note that he thrives on seeing them engrossed in his subject matter, helps teach them how to learn and has a strong influence on shaping their academic success. Johnson is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the 2003 Joel Spira Excellence in Teaching Award from Cornell's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the 2002 J.P. and Mary Barger '50 Teaching Award and the 1996 Michael Tien '72 Teaching Award, from Cornell's College of Engineering, and selection as the 1983 C. Holmes MacDonald Outstanding Teacher, a national award from the electrical engineering honorary society Eta Kappa Nu. 

Peter Katzenstein

Katzenstein is not only known for his stellar achievement as a scholar but also for his dedication to graduate and undergraduate students. Ever since he joined the Cornell faculty in 1973, Katzenstein has brought deep respect and a caring nature to his teaching and is devoted to his students, giving his time freely to them, nurturing their academic growth and mentoring them through crises. His courses in international relations, capitalism and competition, and conflict in the global economy consistently receive the highest marks from students. Students write that his knowledge is wide-ranging and his acute observations of contemporary politics make his courses exciting, challenging and relevant to current events and real-world politics. He is the recipient of numerous academic honors and fellowships, including the Stephen and Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, given to him in 1993.

In recognition of the importance of undergraduate teaching, the Cornell Board of Trustees established the Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships in 1992. Academic staff and junior and senior students are invited to nominate tenured faculty members each year, with a deadline in early March. Each year, the university president appoints three previous winners and three emeritus professors to the Weiss Fellows Committee. They review the student nominations from Cornell's various colleges and appoint three undergraduate students to the committee. The nine-member nominating committee then reviews all the nominations for outstanding faculty and forward recommendations to the president, who ultimately makes the final decision.

To date, 37 faculty members have been named Weiss fellows. The 2003 recipients were Louis D. Albright, biological and environmental engineering; Geraldine Gay, communication; and Kenneth A. McClane, English. The 2001 and 2002 recipients were: Rosemary J. Avery, policy analysis and management; W. Bruce Currie, animal science; Timothy J. Fahey, natural resources; Richard Polenberg, history; Stephen L. Sass, materials science and engineering; and Mariana F. Wolfner, molecular biology and genetics.