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News from the Mathematics Department

Ed Burger, Professor of Mathematics at Williams College, Wins Baylor's Prestigious Cherry Award

Jan. 15, 2010

Dr. Edward Burger, Professor of Mathematics and Lissak Professor for Social Responsibility and Personal Ethics at Williams College, is the 2010 winner of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching. He will be in residence at Baylor University during the 2010 fall semester. Congratulations to Ed - we are looking forward to soon having him 'on board' with us!! This is a wonderful opportunity for our faculty to interact with Ed and an equally wonderful opportunity for our Baylor students to learn from him!

The Department is grateful to Baylor University and, in particular, to the Cherry Award committee for selecting such an outstanding candidate from an exceptional pool of renowned teachers in higher education. For further information, please see the Baylor Cherry Award site.

An excerpt from the university's press release is below:

WACO, Texas (Jan. 14, 2010) - Baylor University has named Dr. Edward B. Burger, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Gaudino Scholar at Williams College in Massachusetts, as the 2010 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award - with the single largest monetary reward of $200,000 - presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching. The award was announced at today's spring faculty meeting.

"Baylor University is very pleased to honor Dr. Edward Burger, truly one of our nation's most outstanding, passionate and creative mathematics professors, with Baylor's 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching," said Baylor Interim President David E. Garland.

"During our more than 160-year history, Baylor University has been recognized nationally for the emphasis we place on exceptional classroom teaching. Our students already benefit daily from our notable faculty, who understand and greatly appreciate the value of teaching," Garland said. "The Cherry Award allows us to extend that experience by bringing to our campus some of the world's greatest teachers, such as Dr. Burger. We congratulate our 2010 Cherry Award recipient and we look forward to welcoming him to Baylor University in the fall."

The Cherry Award program at Baylor 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. Individuals nominated for the award have a proven record as an extraordinary teacher with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students, along with a record of distinguished scholarship.

Burger visited the Baylor campus in October 2009 to present a Cherry Finalist Lecture on "The Art of Exploring Invisible Worlds: Thinking Through the Fourth Dimension." As the 2010 Cherry Award recipient, he will receive the $200,000 award, plus $25,000 for his home department at Williams College. He will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2010.

"The Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching committee was very pleased with the strength of the applications for the 2010 award," said Dr. Heidi J. Hornik, professor of art history and chair of the Cherry Award Committee. "All three finalists had successful visits and lectures on campus last fall. Dr. Burger demonstrated that he was not only a leading educator in his field but that he has truly committed his life to the effective teaching of mathematics."

"I am extremely honored and humbled to learn that I will receive the 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching," Burger said. "Now more than ever, our country is ready to begin a critical and honest discussion on the core tenets of education, which in my opinion include inspiring minds, fostering creative thinking and changing lives; and to consider imaginative means by which to realize these important goals. I hope that through Baylor University's deep commitment to teaching, I will be able to add my voice to this important national conversation. I am also delighted and honored to be invited to join the Baylor community and look forward to collaborating with and getting to know the students, faculty, staff and alumni of Baylor University."

Burger's national reputation has allowed him to serve as a consultant for the "NUMB3RS in the Classroom Project" with CBS-TV/Paramount Studios/Texas Instruments and most recently with NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, on "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games." The 16-part video series, which explores the science behind individual Olympic events, will air on the "Today Show" and throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage on NBC-TV. Burger is featured in the "Mathletes" segment, in which he discusses the math found in the Olympic games. The series is available online at http://www.nbclearn.com/olympics.

Hornik said that although Burger's main focus is on undergraduate education, the Williams professor also is concerned with math education on the secondary school level. In addition to teaching at Baylor in the fall, Burger plans to reach out to local schools and organizations to demonstrate his passion for mathematics and mathematical thinking.

"In fact, some Waco-area schools have used his math classroom video tutorials to great success," Hornik said. "His love of mathematics will be felt by students and faculty at Baylor, as well as throughout the Waco community."

Dr. Lance Littlejohn, chair of the department of mathematics at Baylor, said he and his colleagues look forward to Burger's presence next fall among his department's already award-winning faculty and undergraduates of all majors at Baylor.

"Ed Burger is, quite simply, a teaching phenomenon," Littlejohn said. "He is immaculately organized and extremely articulate with an engaging personality. He has an uncanny ability of taking very difficult mathematics concepts and making them understandable to students. It is well known that, in Ed's classes, students are pumped with excitement when his class starts and, at the end of his lectures, they leave his classroom with an even higher feeling of exhilaration.

"I want our undergraduate non-math majors to experience him as a teacher and, equally important, I want our math majors to learn from him," Littlejohn added. "Taking a class from Ed Burger will, I am certain, be a positive, indelible experience that our Baylor students will never forget."

In addition to Burger, Baylor also named two other distinguished scholar/teachers as Cherry Award Finalists: Dr. Roger Rosenblatt, Distinguished Professor of English at Stony Brook University, and Dr. Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas. The Cherry Finalists each received $15,000, while their home departments also received $10,000 for the development of teaching skills.