Professor of Sociology James A. Davis, Associate Professor of Applied Mechanics Howard A. Stone and teaching fellow David C. Bear '92 are this year's recipients of the Levenson prize for undergraduate teaching.
The winners of the award were announced at a semi-formal Leverett House dinner Monday night.
"I am astounded," Davis said yesterday. "It's nice to be rewarded for teaching, but teaching is itself an enormous reward and I would be glad to teach if I never got an award in my lifetime."
Any student can nominate a professor or teaching fellow for the award during the spring semester The Undergraduate Council's student affairs committee then selects the winners.
Committee chair Hassen A. Sayeed '96 said choosing this year's recipients was very difficult.
The committee considered CUE guide ratings, personal experience and interviews, but "the real criterion was the sincerity of the nominations," Sayeed said.
"We had more than 100 nominations this year and spent more than two weeks reading them," Sayeed said. "We cajoled, convinced and re- read. We had meetings of legendary length."
Sayeed emphasized that the award's intent isnot only to honor the recipients but to bringtogether all the nominees with the students whoselected them.
Both Davis and Bear said they work to givestudents individual attention when they teach.
"I don't lecture if possible," Davis said."I've not given a final in 20 years, but in all myclasses the customers write six or eight papersand get them back with comments. If you do it thatway, you see people grow during the course."
Bear said he spends at least 16 hours a weekdirectly interacting with students in section,office hours, study groups and special meetingsfor students who want more help.
"I try to get [the students] working togetheron this stuff and become friends," said Bear, ateaching fellow for Physics 15b, "Electromagnetismand Relativity," and Math 21b, "Linear Algebra andDifferential Equations."
"I sort of view it as our section, not mysection," Bear added. "I can pretty much guaranteethat if they understand what happens in section,they can...understand everything in the course andevery problem they encounter on an exam.
Stone said his theory of education is basedupon hard work.
"If I have students who want to be goodmusicians, I ask them how do they do it and theysay they practice," said Stone, who has taught atHarvard since 1989. "If I have students who wantto be good athletes, I ask them how they do it andthey say they practice. I don't see any differenceif you want to learn something."
Stone said that by teaching, he feels as if heis giving something back to the remarkableinstructors he had as an undergraduate in chemicalengineering at the University of California Davis,and as a graduate student at Caltech.
Allen D. Duan '95, who nominated Stone, saidthe professor shows great concern for hisstudents.
"He cares not just about your academicexperience but about your entire collegiateexperience," said Duan, who took Stone's AppliedMath 105b, "Topics in Applied Mathematics," andEngineering Sciences 181, "Thermodynamics andIntroduction to Statistical Mechanics."
"He does have set office hours but pretty muchany afternoon students go in as if it were officehours," Duan said.
Davis has taught at Harvard for 17 years,following shorter stints at Yale, Dartmouth andthe University of Chicago. This semester, hisclasses include Sociology 15, "American Society,"and Sociology 128, "Paradigms of Social Inquiry."
The Levenson award was created 12 years ago