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Ross Brann, Al George and David Winkler named 2007 Weiss Presidential Fellows

Three Cornell faculty members have been chosen for the 2007 Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships for excellence in teaching and advising undergraduate students and outstanding efforts to improve instruction on campus.

They are Ross Brann, the Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies and dean of the Alice H. Cook House; Albert R. George, the J.F. Carr Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and adviser to the Cornell FSAE race-car team; and David Winkler, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the faculty curator of birds.

The awards -- $5,000 a year 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. The awards honor excellence in teaching, advising and outstanding contributions to undergraduate education. To date, 46 faculty members have been named Weiss fellows.

The three faculty members will be honored at an awards dinner in the spring, when the board of trustees meets on campus.

Brann, who has been on the Cornell faculty since 1986, is described as a "superb teacher and mentor" whose "passion for the material was only rivaled by his passion for teaching," according to one student. Another student asserted that "after four years here, I can now say with certainty that Professor Brann is one of the most enthusiastic professors I have ever witnessed in lecture." Yet another student wrote that Brann "inspired me and brought out a personal intellectual curiosity that I did not know existed."

One of his colleagues noted his commitment to intellectual fairness and "indefatigable efforts to bring Jewish and Muslim students together in dialogue [that] has created a campus where civility and respect exist relative to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ... he has been magnificent" in his role as dean of Alice Cook House.

Brann is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, a Guggenheim Fellow, the author of two books, editor of three books and numerous academic publications, as well as being extremely active serving the university (including 14 years as department chair). The Weiss committee noted, "One can only wonder when he finds time to relax."

George, who has been on the Cornell faculty for 42 years, is best known on campus "for his pioneering work in developing a course on automotive engineering design that is based on learning by experience." Each year up to 30 students work on designing, building and testing a Formula SAE racing car for international competition. His work, the Weiss committee noted, has brought "international fame to Cornell and resulted in attractive job opportunities to students who participate in the program."

His "experiential learning" teaching style, which he actively shares with other faculty members, gives students skills that allow them to apply theories to practical problems. Students also gain managerial and organizational skills by working in teams under high pressure to meet deadlines.

George has received six outstanding teaching awards just in the past decade. "His dedication to teaching and his patience and kindness in work with students are attested to by letters from many current and former students," wrote the Weiss committee. "The repeated success of Cornell students in the annual FSAE contest is remarkable."

Winkler, known as "Wink," joined the Cornell faculty 20 years ago. He consistently receives "superb" ratings in course evaluations and is one of the primary reasons why Cornell is acknowledged for producing the largest number of students who go on to graduate school in ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior, according to the Weiss committee. His students wrote that "his mentorship was unconditional" and that he "taught me how to be a scientist and encouraged me to fulfill my full potential." One student wrote that Winkler "is a gifted teacher, my mentor and a best friend. He has truly helped shape the person I am today. ... He is unrivaled among professors, and he is one of the most inspiring men I have ever met."

The recipient of numerous teaching awards who is "deeply involved in professional activities," Winkler "has ... passionately pursued his special area of research while transmitting that passion so effectively to so many of his students," said the Weiss committee. Winkler's independent research projects with students have involved swallows and other birds in Ithaca, at Mono Lake, Calif., and throughout the Americas.


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