A day after Springfest, the Undergraduate Council turned its attention from the MAC Quad to the classroom, honoring outstanding teachers last night at the annual Levenson Memorial Teaching Awards.
And for the second straight year, a professor of physics took home the Senior Faculty Award.
Students recognized this year's recipient, Professor of Physics Gerald Gabrielse, for his work teaching a Core class--Science A-45: "Reality Physics"--despite his status as a Senior Faculty member.
"He sacrificed a lot of himself and his sleep to make it a good class," said Megan K. Whyte '01, who was one of several students to nominate Gabrielse.
Gabrielse joked about his newly-won award.
"I was sure that teaching a Core class with 'Physics' in the title would make my ratings plummet and make me very unpopular," he quipped.
Last year's winner of the award was Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Leverett House Master Howard Georgi '68.
But after a couple of surprises, the announcement of Gabrielse's victory was almost anticlimactic.
First, Associate Professor of Government Louise M. Richardson won the Junior Faculty award, announced Council Treasurer Sterling P. A. Darling '01.
In February, Richardson announced she would leave Harvard at the end of the spring semester. The Government Department had not recommended Richardson, who has served as the department's head tutor for two years, for tenure. Many students lamented Richardson's failure to receive tenure as a missed opportunity for a department that does not have many tenured female professors.
Darling, who nominated Richardson, praised her for teaching Government 1748: "Terrorist Movements in International Relations."
He denied the council--which has long advocated racial and gender diversity in the Faculty--was trying to send a message.
"Whatever statement [Richardson's award] makes is obvious," Darling said.
"But that was not the intent behind it."
Instead, Darling said he thought Richardson won the award because she took on the difficult job of teaching a subject that everyone expects to be interesting--and met the high expectations.
The second surprise came when John Paul Rollert '00, former chair of the council's Student Affairs Committee (SAC), rose to present an award that was not on the program.
He presented Dean of Undergraduate Education and Reisinger Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures William M. Todd III with a plaque as a token of the council's appreciation for his work as dean. Todd is leaving his deanship in July and will resume his teaching and research duties.
The council had voted by acclamation to praise Todd for his commitment to improving academic life for students.
Rounding out the awards was the honor for teaching fellows, given to Jeremy Weinstein, a doctoral student at the Kennedy School of Government and resident tutor in Winthrop House.
Weinstein teaches sections for a little-known Core class, Social Analysis 52: "Growth and Development in Historical Perspective."
"There are very few teachers capable of keeping me awake at 9 a.m.," said one student who nominated Weinstein after taking his early-morning section of the class.
Elizabeth M. Foster '01, another nominating student, said Weinstein's influence convinced her to join the Peace Corps after she graduates.
Weinstein will not teach the class next year--he will be working toward his degree in Africa.
The awards, which were first given out in 1983, honor the late history professor Joseph P. Levenson '41. Six members of SAC sift through several hundred nominations to winnow the field, and the full SAC makes the final award decisions.