Coppola earns Cherry Award


By Rob Bradfield
Staff Writer

This year’s recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, Dr. Brian Coppola of the University of Michigan, will be joining the Baylor Chemistry and Biochemistry Department for the spring 2013 semester.

Coppola, a chemistry professor, received the Cherry Award after an extensive selection process carried out by members of the Baylor faculty. As part of the award, Coppola will be teaching two sections of organic chemistry and coordinating a special after-class seminar for future educators in the sciences aimed at improving teaching abilities and including students in the course structure development. Coppola was selected for this award because of his history of achievements and his record of excellent teaching.

“He had a unique way of teaching organic chemistry that involved students in writing their own version of the course materials,” Dr. Mike Thompson, head of the selection committee and computer science professor, said.

Coppola will be teaching two classes with a total of 300 students. Those that enroll will be able to experience first-hand Coppola’s award-winning teaching and dedication to making an impact on the students he teaches.

“At the heart of it all, excellence in teaching means that professors are inspiring, educating and elevating the next generation to help advance our understanding of the world, and to help improve the human condition,” Coppola said in a press release.

Baylor faculty had the chance to meet Coppola and hear one of his lectures, which dealt with the crossover of chemistry and everyday life, late last semester. This lecture, as well as those of the other finalists, are available on the Cherry Award website. Coppola’s innovations, as well as his skill as a lecturer, created excitement among the chemistry department faculty.

“He’s got a wonderful sense of humor and a wealth of knowledge that he brings in at every chance, and I think he’s going to liven things up,” Dr. Patrick Farmer, Baylor chair of chemistry and biochemistry, said.

After a year-long process, Coppola was selected as the Cherry Award winner from a final group of three teachers recognized for excellence. The three finalists each received $15,000 and $10,000 for their departments. Coppola received an additional $250,000 as part of the final award.

The award was established by a gift from the estate of Robert Foster Cherry, a 1929 Baylor graduate. According to the Cherry Award website, his appreciation for excellent professors drove him to create an award that would recognize their excellence in the classroom and bring them in contact with Baylor students.

The first Cherry Award was received by John L. Thomas of Brown University’s history department and has been given out every two years to a college professor that has a record of excellent teaching. Finalists are selected from several pools of teachers across the nation that received nominations from their administrations, colleagues and former students. The next round of finalists will give guest lectures in the fall of 2013. Those interested in attending can check the Robert Foster Cherry award website for schedule updates.