Pepperdine Professor to Give Final Cherry Award Lecture

Oct. 22, 2007

by Rebekah Hardage, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Stephen D. Davis, a distinguished professor of Biology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., will present his lecture, "Undergraduate Research, Celebrating the Spice of Science," from 3:45 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, in room B.110 of the Baylor Sciences Building. Davis is one of three finalists for Baylor University's Robert Foster Cherry Awards for Great Teaching.

"The thesis of my lecture is that undergraduate students, if given the educational opportunity, can uniquely contribute to the advancement of science, through their creative and novel approaches to the scientific enterprise," Davis said. He thinks undergraduates can contribute significantly because they are at the beginning of their professional education and are more open to new ideas. He also will provide several examples from his experience at Pepperdine.

Davis hopes to inspire students to participate in research at the undergraduate level and to encourage faculty to capitalize on the creativity and originality of their students.

"I am deeply honored to be among the finalists and very appreciative of former students and colleagues who wrote letters in support of my application," Davis said. "I cannot imagine a more rewarding vocation than teaching."

The Cherry Award for Great Teaching 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. The Cherry Award is the only higher education teaching award in the United States that invites teachers from the English-speaking world to apply. In addition, it is the only national teaching award by a college or university - with the single largest monetary reward of $200,000 - given to an individual for exceptional teaching.

The award winner, who will be announced in spring 2008, will receive the $200,000 award, plus $25,000 for his home department and will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2008 or spring 2009. Even before that, the Cherry finalists received $15,000 each, while their home department also received $10,000 to development of teaching skills.

Davis received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Abilene Christian University. He earned his doctorate from Texas A&M, where he also worked as an instructor in botany. He joined the faculty at Pepperdine in 1974.

Much of Davis's research centers on plant physiological ecology or the ability of plants to adapt to fire, freezing and drought. He has written numerous book chapters and scholarly articles for such publications as Nature, The American Journal of Botany and the International Journal of Plant Science and Ecology.

In 2002, Davis was awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant to study chaparral, the most abundant native plant life in Southern California. The award represented the largest National Science Foundation grant to ever be awarded to Pepperdine. That same year he was named Pepperdine Professor of the Year.

Davis also served as Harriet and Charles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Fellow from 1990-1995; as a visiting scholar at the University of Utah, UCLA and Stanford University; and is a member of Golden Key national honor society and Phi Sigma biological sciences honor society.

Davis feels privileged to be among the finalist for the Cherry Award. "I think this is a great program, because it focuses on teaching and provides a platform for dialogue and sharing that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and institutions," he said. "I look forward to a collaborative exchange of ideas. I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate."

The Cherry Award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, who earned his A.B. from Baylor in 1929. He enrolled in the Baylor Law School in 1932 and passed the Texas State Bar Examination the following year. With a deep appreciation for how his life had been changed by significant teachers, he made an exceptional estate bequest to establish the Cherry Award program to recognize excellent teachers and bring them in contact with Baylor University students. The first Robert Foster Cherry Award was presented in 1991 and has since been awarded biennially.

For more information, contact Linda McGregor at (254) 710-2923 or visit

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