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Lindback and Provost's Awards—Sketches of the 2012 Winners
April 10, 2012, Volume 58, No. 29

Since 1961, Lindback Awards—for members of the standing faculty—have been a springtime tradition at Penn.
The Provost’s Awards—for full- and part-time associated faculty and academic support staff—have been given in
conjunction with the Lindbacks since 1988. Another University-wide award to honor faculty who teach and mentor
doctoral students began in 2003 for members of the standing or associated faculty in any school offering the PhD. Below are profiles and excerpts from colleagues’ and students’ letters of recommendation for this year’s winners. 


Teaching Award Reception: April 17

All members of the University community are cordially invited to
a reception honoring the recipients of the
Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Awards for Distinguished Teaching and
the Provost’s Awards for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing Faculty
as well as the
Provost’s Awards for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring
Tuesday, April 17 at 5 p.m., Hall of Flags, Houston Hall

Lindback Awards
Non-Health Schools
Health Schools
Provost's Awards

Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Awards at the
University of Pennsylvania: Awarded for Distinguished Teaching

The Lindback Awards for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Pennsylvania were established in 1961 with the help of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation. Christian Lindback was president and principal of Abbotts Dairies, Inc. and a trustee of Bucknell University. The Foundation established Lindback Awards for Distinguished Teaching at colleges and universities throughout the Abbotts Dairies, Inc.’s service area in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

See www.archives.upenn.edu/people/notables/awards/lindback.html for the previous recipients.

Lindback Awards–Non-Health Schools

Mirjam Cvetic


Mirjam Cvetic, Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Professor of Physics in the School of Arts & Sciences, has taught at Penn since 1989. A distinguished string theorist, she has become legendary among both faculty and students for her commitment to—and reimagining of—the department’s freshman physics sequence. She “made it a mission in life to deliver the perfect course in introductory physics,” reports a colleague, and so “rethought everything from how to draw diagrams to enhance visual learning to how to generate discussion both inside and outside the classroom.” As a result, it is a “common sight to see her walking from class with a bevy of students trailing her down the hallway—still talking about the subjects just discussed in the classroom.” Students repeatedly use the word “passion” to describe her as “the most passionate professor I have ever met” who is able to communicate the “unrelenting passion she exudes for physics,” from the “explosion of color and excitement” in her fabled use of colored chalk (“I still recall one session where she ended up with colored chalk all over her dress and suit because of her excitement over a conceptual physics problem”) to the personal emails with which she congratulates students on their achievements to her “dedication to making sure that each student receives all the attention necessary to succeed in her course.” As one student remembers, “she was so lively and animated at the board, at the end of each bullet point, she was usually out of breath, recovering from the excitement of the last bit of knowledge she presented!” 


Andrew Rappe


Andrew Rappe, professor of chemistry in the School of Arts & Sciences, has taught at Penn since 1994. Students and colleagues report that he “excels in communicating scientific concepts in a clear and understandable way, in stimulating his students to think critically about scientific concepts, and in inspiring his students to be passionate about science.” He has reconceived both the introductory Chemistry 101 course and the honors chemistry sequence, infusing them with his “ability to explain the most complicated concepts in an understandable fashion, without ‘dumbing down’ the material.” His “scientific zest is infectious,” and he is committed to challenging students with rigorous, contemporary material, engaging them with “his enthusiasm and dynamic teaching style” and stopping “to explain the concept further or answer any and all questions that we had.” He extends this commitment outside the classroom, holding class on Skype when he is at a conference in Asia, maintaining “office hours” online on Blackboard, and hosting an online discussion board on which students can both ask and answer questions. He “exemplifies the Penn educator-researcher,” writes a colleague, “as he devises ways to expose even his introductory-level students to state-of-the-art topics in science.” Recalls a student, “by the end of the semester, I felt like a part of a community—a community where everyone was so willing to help others. Dr. Rappe added that new dimension to my life as a student.”   


Larry Silver


Larry Silver, James and Nan Wagner Farquhar Professor of the History of Art in the School of Arts & Sciences, has taught at Penn since 1997. “Teaching is always a learning opportunity for Larry,” writes a colleague, “and this learning is never only about art; it is always also about the people he’s teaching.” One of the world’s most eminent historians of Northern European Renaissance art and former president of the College Art Association, he nevertheless “demonstrates a genuine desire to learn from his students as much as he teaches them.” His “door is literally always open,” and he has mentored generations of students, long after graduation from Penn, who are sometimes researching areas quite distinct from his own. “Because he is so knowledgeable,” reports a student who worked with him on a topic far removed from his specialty, “there is rarely—if ever—a subject he will not be able to advise his students on.” He “believes in the power of education to transform an individual, a field and even the world,” writes an admiring colleague, “teaching not only the works of art that are his main subject but also what it means to be a human being engaged with the visual and with the worlds that it represents.” Along these lines, he reconceived the department’s introductory survey course “to investigate what the status of art was at different historical moments: how were those big pictures part of the visual experience of people?” As a student notes, “in every instance, Dr. Silver has triumphed not only as a wellspring of knowledge—one that extends well beyond the confines of art history —but also as a gifted mentor devoted to the cultivation of critical thinking among his students.” 


Camillo José (CJ) Taylor


Camillo José (CJ) Taylor, associate professor of computer and information science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, has taught at Penn since 1997. A “role model for all of us who aspire to be superb teachers and mentors,” he has “managed in his teaching… to not only retain students, but to inspire them to stay on in the major, without compromising on quality or content.” His “extraordinary contributions” to the department’s curriculum include developing the two-semester introductory course sequence in Scientific Computing and overhauling the computer science sequence. And yet “where he stands out is in his understanding of how students get drawn into and retained in the program, which is especially crucial for women and minority students.”  Those students repeatedly testify to his ability to combine academic rigor with personal approachability, as he “sets an atmosphere for intellectually challenging but enjoyable learning in all his courses” and “strikes the perfect balance between being approachable and motivating his students to work independently.” They report that he “inspires students to work at becoming not only better programmers, but better thinkers,” especially because “he doesn’t just give you the answer, but instead works with you to dissect the problem so that the pieces are easier to digest.” Above all, “Professor Taylor wants his students to succeed, and to help us do so, he taught us all he could in a semester. He taught us about computer architecture to be sure, but he also taught us the value of starting early, and of working carefully, and of asking for help when we need it.  He is the embodiment of that rare teacher who just cares.” 


Lindback Awards–Health Schools

Jeffrey Berns


Jeffrey Berns, professor of medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine, has taught at Penn since 1989. “Whether teaching one-on-one in the clinic or hospital ward, or working with a small group in an interactive seminar, or speaking in a large lecture format at Penn or at invited lectures around the world,” reports a colleague, “Dr. Berns … is a master physician who uses his command of the literature and the nuances of medicine and an innate understanding of how individuals learn to lead his students at every level to question and discover.” Those students testify to his uncanny skills at leading them on “a walk along the nephron” in which “every word he devotes to the topic is carefully chosen,” and yet he remains “long after lecture or section” and responds to “every single [question] with patience, and in a way that I could apply what he was teaching me to new situations.” An “ideal” mentor, he “encouraged me to pursue my own interests while continually providing guidance and support. This commitment to fostering independent thought and autonomy is the hallmark of a great mentor—one who truly sets his mentees on a path towards future success.” His devotion to educating his students is captured best by a student who reports: “Of the many qualities that make Dr. Berns a uniquely special teacher and professor, his passion for knowledge stands above everything else. A few months ago I was talking with Dr. Berns and asked him if he ever gets bored of his job. Without hesitation he remarked, ‘Never—I learn something new every day. I love my job!’”


Lesley King


Lesley King, professor-clinician educator of critical care in the School of Veterinary Medicine, has taught at Penn since 1987. The author of “groundbreaking clinical research in the field and … the definitive textbook on respiratory diseases in companion animals,” she is also a renowned teacher with a “wonderful ability to bring out the best in the students,” especially in her commitment to daily student rounds, filled with “laughing and lively discussion,” in which “book learning is synthesized with real-time experiences, and new teachers are born.” In these settings, writes a colleague, “she has just the right balance of firmness and patience, having high expectations and standards, yet leading students/nurses logically to think out what they do know and how they can figure out answers.” Along these lines, one of her many admiring students reports, “she took the time to really let us figure it out ourselves (while standing by to make sure we didn’t make any rash decisions). If we said the anuric cat with low CVP’s needed more fluids, we were given the responsibility to choose the exact amount, set the pump, and watch what happened. It was scary, since it was the first time a clinician had really given us free reign to take charge of a case, but it was incredibly effective.” As another student reports, “Working alongside her, I have learned that no case is too difficult when approached with systematic care.” A leader in mentoring not only students but also junior colleagues, Dr. King has guided and inspired generations of new doctors; “I see many of them at meetings,” reports a colleague, and they say, ‘I finished veterinary school and wanted to be Lesley King.’” 


Mitchell Lewis


Mitchell Lewis, John Morgan Professor of Biomedical Research and Education in the Perelman School of Medicine, has taught at Penn since 1994. Director of the biochemistry course for first-year medical students that “has become one the defining features of medical education at Penn,” he, in the words of one student, “transformed a seemingly dry topic into a challenging and stimulating adventure.” With “a rare knack for maintaining a relaxed and fun research environment, while at the same time churning out some of the most significant publications in the field of structural biology,” he “lectures to the students about complicated mechanisms in such a relaxed manner, that one feels like he is having a casual conversation with the students over lunch.” Despite this deceptively laid-back atmosphere—which includes the annual singing of the song “Glucose Glucose”—his “vision, enthusiasm and creativity” have led to numerous enhancements to the course, including delivering every lecture himself, securing a highly competitive Howard Hughes Medical Institute award to introduce BGS students to clinical settings, and attending classes in every PSOM course to better understand the students’ experiences (“He took every course!, “one student amazedly observed). “He arrived to lecture every morning bounding with energy,” remembers a student, “equipped with his unique smile reflecting both joy and excitement, anxious to impart the wonders of biochemistry onto us.” As another student writes, “It is teachers like Dr. Lewis who change your entire perspective, who transform the world into a choose-your-own-adventure novel full of excitement and discovery, who transform the most mundane into the most exhilarating.” 


Neal Rubinstein


Neal Rubinstein, associate professor of cell and developmental biology in the Perelman School of Medicine, has taught at Penn since 1977. “Incredibly,” writes a colleague, “he has made Anatomy (traditionally a despised and feared course in medical schools) the most popular pre-clinical course, year after year. Since taking over Histology only a few years ago, this once floundering course has become the second most popular! In the process of revamping the curricula in these classes, he has modernized and enlivened these dreaded subjects by infusing them with his own enthusiasm for learning and discovery.” As the course director for these two essential areas, he “constantly seeks new ways to improve the course” and has instituted a wide range of educational, curricular and technological enhancements. “He is always thinking about how to help the students learn,” notes a colleague, “and what kind of knowledge our students need and how to best communicate that knowledge to the students.” As a result, reports one of those students, “he was much more than simply helpful and accessible; he managed to make my first exposure to Histology enjoyable. Even if I wasn’t entirely convinced that those two dots he pointed out were in fact two different cell types, I always left class having learned a lot and having enjoyed myself in the process.” Echoes another professor, “As an educator, Neal is tireless, devoted and innovative. He cares deeply about educating the next generation of physicians, and he takes this responsibility very seriously. He is always thinking about how to help the students learn, and what kind of knowledge our students need and how to best communicate that knowledge to the students. It is no wonder that the students appreciate him!”


Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence by Non-Standing Faculty

In October of 1987, the Office of the Provost announced the establishment of two additional Penn teaching awards—one in a Health School and one in a Non-Health School—to be given annually in recognition of distinguished teaching by associated faculty or academic support staff. The guidelines for the selection of the award recipients are the same as those given for the Lindback Awards, and the selection processes and deadlines are the same.

Eric Goren


Eric Goren, assistant professor of clinical medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine, has taught at Penn since 2008, when he completed his residency at HUP.  In only a few years, he has become the “driving force” behind the student-run United Community Clinics in West Philadelphia and created a significant new sub-internship rotation and “boot camp” program for fourth-year students, while also becoming, in the words of senior colleagues, “a role model for countless students” and “one of the most talented teachers” in the School. In an informal style that is “lucid, direct and humble,” he “has a talent for boiling down academic knowledge to its clinically relevant essentials,” in the words of one student, “without losing richness of content.” In particular, students learn from his unwavering attention to improving the lives of both his patients and his students: “he is always willing, and indeed happy, to spend as much time as necessary to ensure that both students and patients learn or understand the subject at hand.” Moreover, he “turns every possible moment into a teaching moment, he is extraordinarily generous with his time, and watching him interact with patients is truly inspiring.” As one of the many students he has influenced reported, “After spending a year and a half volunteering at UCC I have learned how to be respectful and non-judgmental to all patients I encounter. He has not only inspired hundreds of people to help others, but has also taught students what being a health care provider is all about. We all aspire to one day become as passionate and good a person as he is.” 


Bruce Kothmann


Bruce Kothmann, senior lecturer in the department of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, has taught at Penn since 2004. “The first thing that anyone will notice about Bruce,” writes a student, “is his contagious enthusiasm for engineering; it is nearly impossible to resist being swept up in his undying excitement for what he does. Bruce is genuinely invested in making himself and everyone around him the best engineer possible.” Through his experience as an industrial aerospace engineer, he specializes in “posing practical engineering problems and challenging students to think outside the box” and thereby “brings real-world engineering into rigorous instruction.” His students consistently praise the combination of rigorous standards, real-world applications, accessibility and enthusiasm that he brings to his teaching. “It’s a little surprising at first,” as one of them writes, “how excited one person can get about boundary layers and high pass filters! Bruce teaches concepts as if he just discovered them to be true, and in turn his students become excited about what they are learning.” He organizes field trips, video chats with students on Sunday mornings, and “recently got so excited by statics and strength of materials that, when he noticed truss structures on bridges around Philadelphia, he organized a ‘bridge bicycle ride’ for MEAM students.”  In the end, as one of his colleagues notes, “I believe Bruce serves as the best possible role model for an engineer. He is the ‘engineer’s engineer.’”


Provost’s Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring

Excellence in PhD education is the hallmark of a great university. That excellence depends upon the skill and commitment of faculty mentors. The Provost’s Award for Distinguished PhD Teaching and Mentoring was established specifically to honor faculty who mentor PhD students. The prize is intended to underscore the University’s emphasis on graduate education, by celebrating the accomplishments of faculty who show special distinction in doctoral education.

David Leatherbarrow


David Leatherbarrow, professor of architecture and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Design, has taught at Penn since 1984. A “prodigious thinker, among the most widely cited theorists in our field,” in the words of a former graduate student, he is also “the most effective and powerful teacher I have ever known. Few educators in his generation have advanced the philosophy of architecture and landscape as far and as broadly as he has.” In particular, students admire “his ability to clearly communicate abstract concepts,” often “from the architect’s point of view” and with an “unwavering commitment to his students’ understanding and intellectual development.” In the words of a current graduate student, he “teaches learning itself, the skills and attitudes needed to seek out and acquire knowledge on one’s own.” Or, in the words of another former student, he “has a unique ability to invite those who listen to his arguments and interpretations to a horizon in which they voluntarily participate and along which they move in their thinking.” As a result, generations of former students attest to his indelible influence on their thinking and careers, with “enough ideas to last a lifetime.” He “never ‘finishes’ advising students,” as one of them reports; “he continues to serve as a mentor and as a teacher well after they have established careers.” In the words of another former student, now himself a dean and professor, “I owe the full 21-year-arc of my work to his instruction. His patience for careful teaching seems unlimited. His generosity as a guide and mentor has earned him the loyalty and respect of hundreds of students, both at Penn and around the world.


Mark Pauly


Mark Pauly,Bendheim Professor and professor of health care management in The Wharton School, has taught at Penn since 1983. “One of the leading health economists in the world,” he is also “a kind and supportive adviser” who “was available as often as I needed him” and “set a great example for achieving a healthy work/life balance.” In particular, according to the numerous former students who are now themselves distinguished professors, “his greatest strength in advising graduate students is his ability to steer, but not lead, student projects.” He “manages to provide enough direction that you progress and do not feel unduly discouraged, while offering enough space to allow you to feel the thrill of understanding or developing a new concept on your own.” In particular, “with virtually any research question you present to him, he will nearly always identify an interesting angle you had not previously considered, make the connection to a similar problem you had not yet made, or generally see your problem in a new way.” In addition, notes another former student, he “seemed to have a knack for always challenging me, but always in a manner in which I was in a position to succeed,” such as by joining his graduate students in presenting papers at national conferences. As a colleague reports, “he always combines academic rigor with optimism, good humor and an enthusiasm for research and for helping students. I have never heard him turn a student away. He is generous with his time, patience and effort. Without question, he is a great mentor and role model for his doctoral students, not only in guiding the specifics of their dissertations but also in their approach to academic life more generally.” 


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