Collins Award nominees announced; seniors urged to vote

By Sally Ann Moyer

The 2011 Baylor graduating senior class will surprise one Baylor professor with the receipt of the 2011 Collins Outstanding Professor Award during the first week of March.

The award, selected through a nomination and voting process, includes $10,000 in cash, recognition in university publications, citation on a plaque and recognition at the spring commencement. The recipient is also required to deliver a special lecture on a subject of his or her choice.

All seniors graduating in May are eligible to vote online from now through March 2.

Six finalists were narrowed down from a total of 158 nominations of 109 professors.

The award, sponsored by the Carr P. Collins Foundation, began in 1994 and each professor can only win once.

The lecture is open to the public and its date will not be set until the professor recipient has been selected for this year. In the past, the lecture has taken place during exam week but will occur earlier this year.

“We’ve actually moved the process earlier in the year so that more people can participate in the lecture,” said Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy.

Bennighof facilitates the selection and nomination processes through communication with the senior class officers.

The 2010 recipient was William Hillis, M.D. and professor of biology.

Receiving the award came as a total surprise, Hillis said in an e-mail. He primarily teaches Histology and Immunology, both pre-medical courses and claimed not to cut students any slack.

Winning the award taught him that Baylor students like to be challenged.

David Eldridge, professor of biology, received the award in 2009. He is primarily known for his Cellular Physiology class.

“Lots of seniors take it each semester,” Eldridge said, “I guess that year I got it right.”

Receiving the award also came as a surprise to Eldridge.

“I think it’s a surprise to faculty that get it because you don’t know you’ve been nominated,” Eldridge said, “I had no idea I would win the award.”

He has taught at Baylor for 43 years and estimated to have seen an excess of 20,000 students in that time.

“Because [the award] is voted on primarily by students, it’s a very special award for those of us who came to Baylor primarily for students,” Eldridge said.

Receiving the award reinforced how 1998 recipient Dr. Thomas Hanks, professor of English, teaches.

“It’s a teaching award, but I don’t teach,” Hanks said, “I don’t lecture; I don’t even know how to do that…and I don’t see the point of it.”

Bennighof said nominations come from fairly broad criteria and that most recipients have been those who have connected well with students.

“All we have is the adjective outstanding and the request for those who have touched our hearts and minds,” Bennighof said. “From what I know of many of the professors, many of them are ones who are able to establish a real, personal connection with students,” Bennighof said.

Professors from a variety of departments and disciplines have received the award.

“It’s pretty distinguished company that I’ve been put into,” Hanks said.

Seniors who graduate this year are eligible to vote and can go to Voting will be open until March 2.