2001 Pinanski Prize full citation

The 2001 Pinanski Prize

William Cain

When students of Professor William Cain describe his classroom, moments of deep connection come across vividly.  “It is impossible to be unmoved, untouched by Professor Cain’s magic,” wrote one student nominator.  Another said “I do not know of [any of his] students(s) who have not been transformed by the experience.”

As with all great teaching, Professor Cain’s extends beyond the classroom and the texts.  Students listen to jazz music as they examine the poetry of Langston Hughes or visit the library’s special collections to study first editions of the works of Hughes and Frost, and several of their contemporaries.  They read newspaper article to understand the context for great works of fiction, always interrogating the written word for the human experience.  As one student wrote: “These exercises, field trips and unparalleled experiences allowed the class to view Frost and Hughes as three-dimensional men, poets living within a historical and social context.”

Another nominator recalled an incident that underscored for her Professor Cain’s extraordinary dedication to his teaching.  “He felt guilty for cancelling class one day when he had to have an emergency appendectomy.  On his first day back from surgery he got a tad too excited and made a huge sweeping motion with his arm to emphasize a point.  He doubled over in pain and the entire class gasped in horror. But Professor Cain said simply ‘It’s hard not to get too excited with this’ and continued on with the class.”

Professor Cain, who is one of the College’s most prolific and respected scholars, is, another of his students wrote, “deeply concerned with educating students in a holistic manner, enabling them to become better scholars and to develop their passion and intellectual curiosity; to become well-rounded and secure members of the community; and, to integrate what they learn inside of the classroom into the greater world and vice versa.”

Bill Cain, your admiring students know you, in their words, as “one of the most gifted and dedicated professors at this institution” and they felt imperative that they – “who reap the benefits of [your] hard work” - take this opportunity to acknowledge publicly and with their deep gratitude and admiration for all you have given them.

David Lindauer

“When I poked through brochures of colleges during my college search,  I laughed at Wellesley’s claims to having an amazing faculty,“ wrote on nominator.  “I thought, surely every college must make this claim, what makes this one different?  The answer came to me during the spring semester of my sophomore year when I took economics 212 with Professor David Lindauer.

Students consistently praised Professor Lindauer’s teaching style.  Two students, in a joint nomination, wrote: “When he says ‘good work,’ we know he means it.  When he challenges us in class, it is affirming rather than intimidating.”

 Another student explained, “it is a rare professor who has the ability to challenge each of his students to reach her ultimate potential without causing a single student to feel as though she sits at the margin of the classroom discussion.”  David Lindauer’s students provide ample evidence that he is such a professor.

“He always expected a lot of us,”  wrote another student, “but at the same time he had faith in our ability to meet his high standards, which in turn gave us confidence.”  Yet another nominator concurred, writing “he is not just an amazingly clear lecturer, but also an exceptionally devoted educator who brings out the best in his students by expecting only the best."

To illustrate the exceptional devotion about which many of his students commented, one related this story.  “Last semester, “ she wrote, “when I returned to Wellesley unsure of what I wanted to do my final year, Professor Lindauer walked back with me from class and said ‘let’s have a Wellesley moment.’  He sat down with me on a bench in the academic quad and we talked for over an hour about my options for classes and graduate school.”  Another student, praising his commitment to tailoring his advice to fit the needs of each individual student, noted that she largely attributes to Professor Lindauer’s thoughtful guidance the choices she made in college and those she’s making as she launches a career.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment from a student to a teacher - the ultimate legacy a teacher can hope to leave – was expressed by a student in her nomination of Professor David Lindauer for this award when she wrote: “I aspire one day  to be the type of professor that Mr. Lindauer has been for me.”  I suspect she will be, David, you have taught your students well.

Franklyn A. Turbak

Franklyn (we call him Lyn) Turbak’s students know him as an energetic teacher who does everything possible to transmit to them his deep and abiding passion for computer science.

Describing the first class she took with Professor Turbak, a student wrote, “As soon as Lyn started talking, I was blown away.  I have never seen anyone so passionate about what he teaches.” All of the nominators praised Professor Turbak for giving clear and engaging lectures.  One student explained, “when he teaches, all the obtuse reasoning and statements in the textbook become clear.”  Another student summarized Professor Turbak’s teaching style with these words: “He is equally concerned with ensuring that students learn the material and with ensuring that they see the beauty in what they are doing.”

Professor Turbak’s courses are challenging, his students attest, but he provides them with the support and encouragement they need to meet his high standards.  A student describes her experience in Professor Turbak’s Wintersession robotics class:  “At times I would get really frustrated and sit on the floor and throw my Legos across the room.  Lyn would sit down right next to me on the floor, pick up the Legos, and help me work through the problems.”  The student continued, “at first you can’t understand how someone can expect so much from you, but then he encourages you until you actually achieve your goals.  Then you sit back and think, ‘Wow!! I did it!’”

Students emphasized Professor Turbak’s desire for students to learn – and to care – about computer science.  They praised him for his many efforts to achieve this dual goal.  On student wrote:  “Although he expects students to work hard, they probably never have to work harder on problem sets than he does himself to develop them.”  Another student explained that Professor Turbak “writes up extensive notes to supplement textbooks and develops his own assignments from scratch rather than relying on textbook problems.”

Recently Professor Turbak organized the first summer research program for students in the Wellesley computer science department.  One student who participated in this program reported that “during the program, Lyn was always available to explain past results on the subject, help with our current work – and make sure we were having fun.”

Professor Turbak’s students see him as a role model.  As one wrote, “[he has] inspire[ed] me to work as hard as he does in the hope that someday I might become as knowledgeable, interesting, and generally brilliant as he is.” And, on a more personal note, another student wrote, “I always leave Lyn’s office feeling better about myself than when I went in.”

Thank you, Lyn, for inspiring your students to work hard and to care.  They’re lucky to have you, and so are we.

Related

2001 Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching

 

Read the full citations.