2005 Pinanski Prize full citation

Presentation of Awards

Harold E. Andrews

In the words of one nominator, Harold Andrews, Professor of Geosciences, is the model liberal arts science professor, blending ancient Chinese art, Shakespeare, and global plate tectonics to instill in his students an enduring curiosity about the natural world. His students say they major and minor not in geology or geosciences, but in “Harold.”

Students especially admire Professor Andrews’s ability to make science accessible without making it simple. As one nominator explained, he “provides inspiration along with creatively-integrated facts and figures.” His facility for finding common ground with almost anyone allows him to craft his science into forms that engage -- and educate -- at multiple levels.

Students describe Professor Andrews as a gifted storyteller who can bring any subject to life, captivating classes large and small.

One wrote: “Harold teaches every class by telling an amazing story. I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat at the end of each lecture, wanting to know how the story ends, but not wanting it to be over.”

“His intense energy is not unlike the enthusiasm that explodes within a volcano,” explains another, adding that “it is not anyone who can make primordial ooze fascinating.”

Professor Andrews’s students tell stories too … about what a dedicated teacher he is. “One afternoon, in a complete panic,” one wrote, “I attended Professor Andrews’s office hours with complex questions about atoms. Sensing my nervousness and embarrassment, he calmly said ‘Wellesley’s only business is undergraduates, I care about you, so sit and let me help you.’”

Described by his nominators as brilliant, funny, and kind, Professor Andrews brings to his teaching a passion for the earth and the many processes that sculpt its form. Generations of students, in turn, have left his classes with a lifelong fascination with the infinite mysteries of planet earth.

Elizabeth R. DeSombre

In their nominations, students describe Elizabeth DeSombre, the Camilla Chandler Frost Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, as “challenging,” “passionate,” “inspirational.”

One nominator said this in describing her impact: “In every class and every meeting I have with her, Professor DeSombre speaks with passion, as if the elephants, whales, world heritage, and the ocean are all her friends.”

Students praised Professor DeSombre’s creative teaching methods citing, as an example, the time she made 20 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to demonstrate how difficult it is to regulate individual behavior and produce consistent results.

She frequently uses simulations, which she herself constructs, to provide students with a tangible understanding of the perspectives of various actors (from nation-states, to industries, to individuals) in the negotiation and enforcement process.

Students described ways in which Beth DeSombre creates a rich learning environment. For example, her Environmental Studies 300 course -- the capstone for the major -- is organized, a nominator explained: “more like a consulting job than a purely academic exercise. Each student has an individual job – … an editor, a project manager, a PR person, …. The project [is] ambitious (Beth sets high standards)but [we know we will complete it] because of her guidance and flexibility.”

Another student nominator wrote: “Beth’s assignments have taught me to craft more finely focused arguments and have made the final papers some of the best examples of my work at Wellesley.”

The picture conveyed in the nomination letters is of a professor who is respectful and approachable and who cares about each of her students. One observed that just as she respects her students as intelligent and capable women, they respect her, and “always give her our very best work.”

Lawrence A. Rosenwald

In their nomination letters, students praise Lawrence Rosenwald, Anne Pierce Rogers Professor of American Literature, as an exceptional individual who inspires them, in and out of class.

They describe a classroom pulsating with energy, every student deeply present and engaged with the material. One student pictures Professor Rosenwald perched on the front edge of his desk: “He doesn’t … distance … himself …,” she explained. “He just exchanges ideas with wonderful humor and insight.”

Students value his thought-provoking questions; they never fail to spark conversation. He facilitates discussion skillfully, deftly drawing everyone in. They say he has the rare ability to revive a faltering discussion by gently rephrasing a student’s muddled point, turning it back to the class for a response. Ever receptive to students’ ideas, he asks pointed questions that help them sharpen their thinking. He enables students to build confidence in their writing and to develop “writing voices” distinctly their own.

Larry Rosenwald is a powerful and constructive presence across the campus as well (in every imaginable venue and on-line). Student nominators recall many meaningful interactions with him outside of class. One provided this vignette: “We disagreed [and] that opposition of ideas created some of the most wonderful conversations over coffee in the Hoop … I had never felt so intellectually challenged.”

Another recalled a dinner encounter with Professor Rosenwald in which “over plates of pasta, he eagerly listened to my ideas about several new endeavors, provided feedback on everything from May Day to my journal from my India trip, and helped me understand the larger context of this community that he knows so well.”

Again and again, student nominators expressed gratitude for Larry Rosenwald’s commitment to the Wellesley community and his investment in it … and in them. Commending his “amazing energy [and] knowledge, and [his] great capacity for sharing that knowledge,” they recognize in him the very embodiment of excellence in teaching.

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2005 Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Read the full citations.