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2002 Pinanski Prize Citations
Presentation of Awards
"Whenever Nick walks into a classroom, one is left with the unmistakable impression that, at that particular moment, there is nowhere in the world he would rather be," wrote one student nominator of Nicholas Doe, Senior Instructor of Chemistry.
Nicholas Doe's enthusiasm for teaching, for chemistry, and for his students shone through each nomination he received. One student described her transformation from "terrified high school student" to "crazed chemistry addict." And she credits this to Mr. Doe, explaining "We all have wonderful professors who challenge us mentally and stimulate us academically, but there are a rare few who experience the learning process at the next level. Nick's animation and dedication provided the challenge and stimulation, but in addition fueled unexplored passions and discovered abilities that no one had seen in students before."
Nick Doe's commitment to his students and to their understanding of the course material, and his creative approaches to ensuring that learning and understanding will take place, were repeatedly cited as exemplary. One student explained: To illustrate electrons jumping energy levels, he brings in a ladder and climbs from level to level as students act as various energies of light." Another student reported, "if a student does not understand something the first time, he inevitably has about a dozen different ways to explain it, and he will try every one of them until the student finally sees the light."
Outside the classroom, Nicholas Doe remains actively involved with his students. They wrote about the lines outside his office and of being unable to enter his office because "the room was simply so full of inquisitive students." Despite this, the student nominators explained, Nick Doe never gave students short answers to clear the queue.
"He would ask the student as many questions as she asked him and as a result, no one ever left that office without a clearer understanding of what she really knew, along with new places to apply it." The concluding words of one nominator encapsulated the deep admiration many students expressed for Professor Doe: "Not only is Nick a fantastic teacher," she wrote, "but he is the one person I have ever truly wished I could be more like."
Professor Viano was not able to attend Commencement due to sickness in the family. His citation was not read and is not currently available.
Students write about Akila Weerapana with enthusiasm and eloquence, describing a man dedicated to his teaching, his discipline, his students' personal and intellectual development and the greater Wellesley community. Students' nomination letters described an outstanding teacher who holds himself to the highest standards. As one student testified: "Akila is definitely his own biggest critic and he is always thinking of ways to improve his courses."
Another wrote: "I am most impressed with the demands he puts upon himself every day to make sure he has presented his lecture in the clearest, most articulate, and most interesting way he possibly can."
In turn, explain the student nominators, Professor Weerapana demands outstanding work from his students. One described her course with him as undoubtedly "the most challenging course I've taken at Wellesley. He pushed us to our highest academic potential in his problem sets and examinations." Students also praise Professor Weerapana for his accessibility outside of the classroom.
"Akila sends emails to the class practically begging them to come and talk with him if they are having any trouble," one student writes. "Office hours mean nothing. Akila is always willing to speak with students individually (at 9 p.m. or on the weekends) to make sure that we really understand material from our class or on the problem sets."
The student nominators also appreciated the personal interest Professor Weerapana takes in all his students. More than a lecturer or teacher, wrote one, Akila is " a mentor and friend." Another said: "Knowing Akila, as both a professor and mentor, has made my years here rich and worthwhile. He, more than any other individual I have met at Wellesley, has taught me how to pursue the higher learning and education that transcends GPAs and Latin honors. He, more than any dean or advisor, has helped me translate my dreams and passions into long-term goals. And I learned something about economics along the way, too."
Specific words and phrases appear again and again in the student nominations of Professor Weerapana: "dynamic," "engaging lecturer," "dedication," "passionate," "kind," "caring," "exceptional," and "brilliant." One student summed up the general consensus about Professor Weerapana: "In short," she wrote, "Akila rocks."