Baylor grants annual $250K teaching award to NC State professor

Dr. Hollylynne Lee is the 2022 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award, which includes $250,000 in prize money and a residency at Baylor University. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By George Schroeder | LTVN Managing Editor

Baylor University announced the recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching Thursday night. The award is now the single largest monetary reward from a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching.

Dr. Hollylynne Lee, distinguished professor of mathematics and statistics education at North Carolina State University, was awarded $250,000 and an additional $25,000 for the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education at North Carolina State.

“I was quite speechless, which is a hard feat for me,” Lee said. “I walked away from the experience at Baylor going, ‘You know, it’s been amazing already, and whatever the outcome is, this is fantastic.'”

Lee is expected to teach in residence at Baylor in the spring 2023 semester, according to the university’s Cherry Award website. Lee will temporarily shift from one Research 1 institution to another, as Baylor recently achieved R1 status on Dec. 16.

“I am absolutely going to be enjoying and soaking up every single moment of my semester there and, you know, we’ll see where things go,” Lee said. “At the minimum, I really see this as creating a great collaboration between the faculty at the department of curriculum and instruction and my faculty that work with me back here at NC State.”

According to the website, “The Cherry Award program is designed to honor great teachers, to stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching, and to encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers.”

Lee said her passion to teach comes from her identity as a lifelong learner and her ability to “step outside the box.”

“I think that goes a long way with my pedagogy and trying to think of ways to engage my students and to, you know, make them excited and make them want to gain the knowledge and the skills and to be able to apply those in their own settings,” Lee said. “Preparing future teachers is a really cool job.”

The other two finalists were Dr. Jeb Barnes, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Randy W. Roberts, 150th Anniversary Professor and distinguished professor of history at Purdue University.

“The selection committee for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching was very pleased with the strength of the nomination pool for the 2022 award,” Dr. Michael W. Thompson, committee chair and associate dean for undergraduate programs in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, said. “Each of the three finalists had successful campus visits in the fall, during which they were able to present a public lecture and guest lecture in two undergraduate classes offered by their host departments.”