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Four professors named 2008 Weiss Presidential fellows

Four Cornell faculty members have been chosen for the 2008 Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowships for excellence in teaching and advising undergraduate students and outstanding efforts to improve instruction on campus.

They are Bruce Ganem, the Franz and Elisabeth Roessler Professor of Chemistry; Ronald Harris-Warrick, professor of neurobiology and behavior; Mary Beth Norton, the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History; and Richard Rand, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics.

The awards -- $5,000 a year for five years for each faculty member -- are named for Stephen H. Weiss '57, the late 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, 50 faculty members have been named Weiss fellows.

The 2008 recipients will be honored at a ceremony in May by the Cornell Board of Trustees.


Ganem, who has been on the Cornell faculty since 1974, has developed a wide range of Cornell courses and has been consistently praised, said the Weiss committee, for being "stimulating, clear and well organized. His flexibility in teaching style is remarkable." His mastery of the classroom is best captured by a student in one of his courses with almost 1,000 students: "What was most striking ... was that [he] had the undivided attention of nearly every student for 50 minutes a day, three days a week, over the course of the entire semester."

Described as "extremely influential in advising and mentoring," Ganem is the recipient of the Clark Distinguished Teaching Award, the Catalyst Award of the Chemical Manufacturers Association and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Grant.


Harris-Warrick, a member of the Cornell faculty since 1980, is described as "a superb teacher, cherished mentor, innovator of courses and a top scientist." One student wrote that he is "one of those rare teachers who can make his students come to class because they truly want to, not because they feel they must." Another student noted that "his accessibility to students was extraordinary." The Weiss committee was unanimous in their support of him, citing his record of "sustained excellence as an inspirational and dedicated teacher, educational innovator, mentor and scholar."

His teaching excellence has been recognized with the 2007 SUNY Chancellor's Award in Teaching and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' 2008 Edgerton Career Teaching Award.


Norton, on the faculty since 1971, "has been an extraordinarily effective and committed teacher of Cornell undergraduates for almost 37 years," said the Weiss committee. Described by a colleague as "a dynamic, highly organized and demanding lecturer," Norton has developed and taught very successful courses on American constitutional law and on colonial American history. "Her mastery of the material was breathtaking," said a former student, now a professor himself. Recognized as playing a central role in establishing and developing the Cornell Women's Studies Program (now Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies), Norton is described as "a natural" who "continues to inspire current generations, never resting on past laurels but always seeking both to expand her students' horizons and to keep exceeding her own high teaching standards," the committee observed.

Norton is the recipient of four honorary degrees and a Woodrow Wilson fellowship and has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Guggenheim fellow and the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Rand, a member of the Cornell faculty since 1967, "has gained a reputation as an inspiring, enthusiastic and brilliant lecturer and a dedicated and patient adviser to students. By any measure, he is one of the best teachers in the College of Engineering," the Weiss committee noted. A former student wrote that he was "easily the most lucid and compelling instructor I have had to date." The committee wrote, "Letters from undergraduates emphasize his kindness and patience and his willingness to meet with them outside of regular office hours."

Rand is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including eight citations for excellent teaching by the engineering honor society, two dean's prizes for innovation in undergraduate teaching, and two College of Engineering Excellence in Teaching Awards.


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Simeon Moss