Baylor University Honors University of Michigan Chemistry Professor With $250,000 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

January 12, 2012

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Baylor University has named Brian P. Coppola, Ph.D., The Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, as the 2012 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award - with the single largest monetary reward of $250,000 - presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching.

"Baylor University is very pleased to honor Dr. Brian Coppola of the University of Michigan with Baylor's 2012 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching," said Elizabeth Davis, Ph.D., executive vice president and provost at Baylor. "Dr. Coppola is an internationally known teacher/scholar, who combines an impressive academic record with a stellar reputation for the extraordinary impact he has had on undergraduate students and the educational enterprise.

"For the duration of our storied 166-year history, Baylor University has dedicated itself to the development and shaping of our students through the value we place on extraordinary classroom teaching. Our outstanding faculty continue that tradition to this day by equipping our students to reach the highest levels of academic and educational achievement," Davis 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. Coppola. We congratulate our 2012 Cherry Award recipient and we look forward to welcoming him to Baylor University."

The Cherry Award program at Baylor is designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. Along with a record of distinguished scholarship, individuals nominated for the Cherry Award have a proven record as an extraordinary teacher with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students.

Coppola was named a finalist for the Cherry Award in April 2011, along with fellow distinguished teacher/scholars Heather Macdonald, Ph.D., Chancellor Professor of Geology at the College of William & Mary, and Allen J. Matusow, Ph.D., W.G. Twyman Professor of History at Rice University. As finalists, each professor received $15,000, while their home departments also received $10,000 for the development of teaching skills.

Coppola visited the Baylor campus in November 2011 to present his Cherry finalist lecture on "The Liberal Art of Chemistry: Stories about Human Nature." As the 2012 Cherry Award recipient, Coppola will receive the $250,000 award and an additional $25,000 for his home department at the University of Michigan. He is expected to teach in residence at Baylor during spring 2013 semester.

"The Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching committee was very pleased with the strength of the nomination pool for the 2012 award. Each of the three finalists had successful campus visits during the fall semester where they were able to present a public lecture and guest lecture in two undergraduate classes offered by their host departments," said Michael W. Thompson, Ph.D., chair of the Robert Foster Cherry Award Committee and professor and graduate director in the department of electrical and computer engineering in Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science.

"Dr. Brian Coppola has a sterling record of recognized teaching accomplishments and awards. The Cherry committee was particularly impressed with his innovative Structured Study Group (SSG) program, which uses the notion of guided-inquiry learning for teaching both content and critical thinking skills in organic chemistry," Thompson said.

Coppola said he is deeply honored to be named as the recipient of the 2012 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

"This is a special and wholly unique recognition that highlights the basic foundation of two of civilization's most important activities, namely, teaching and learning," Coppola said. "At the heart of it all, excellence in teaching means that professors are inspiring, educating, and elevating the next generation to help advance our understanding of the world, and to help improve the human condition.

Patrick J. Farmer, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences, said he and his colleagues look forward to Coppola's presence next spring among his department's faculty and undergraduates.

"When Dr. Coppola visited with us in November, we found him to be a very engaging and informed lecturer, who brought personal and cultural insight to his lectures. We believe our students will benefit greatly from him in the classroom as he teaches undergraduate courses in organic chemistry," Farmer said.

A significant part of Coppola's academic career has focused on teacher development, Farmer said. He added that the 2012 Cherry Award recipient plans to begin one of his noted teaching groups while at Baylor.

"Through the Cherry program, Baylor University shines a bright, international light on the incomparable value that interpersonal connections have in the learning process - not only in the original classroom setting - but in creating a lifelong relationship and bond between teachers and their students," Coppola said. "I look forward to joining and collaborating with diverse members of the Baylor University community as a part of this honor."

About Baylor University's Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

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 students. The inaugural Robert Foster Cherry Award was presented in 1991 and is now awarded biennially.

The Cherry Finalists each receive $15,000 and present a series of lectures at Baylor during the fall semester. In addition, each finalist presents a Cherry Award Lecture on their home campuses. The home department of the finalists also receives $10,000 to foster the development of teaching skills.

The winner of the Cherry Award receives an award of $250,000 and an additional $25,000 for his or her home department.

For additional information on Baylor's Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, including past recipients and the 2014 Cherry Award nomination process, visit The nomination deadline for the 2014 award is Nov. 1, 2012.

For more information about the 2012 Cherry Award, contact Linda McGregor, program coordinator for the Cherry Award, at (254) 710-2923, Dr. Thompson at (254) 710-4129 or, and Dr. Coppola at

About Dr. Brian P. Coppola, 2012 Cherry Award Recipient

Dr. Brian P. Coppola is The Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan. He recently completed 10 years as the department's associate chair and also serves as associate director for the University of Michigan-Peking University Joint Institute, in Beijing, China.

Coppola received his B.S. degree in 1978 from the University of New Hampshire and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. He joined the Michigan faculty in 1986, and was promoted to full professor of chemistry in 2001. His recent publications range from educational philosophy, practice and assessment to mechanistic organic chemistry research.

A Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Coppola has been honored numerous times for teaching, including his selection in 2009 as the CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year (for doctoral institutions). His additional awards include: 2006 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the by the Northeast Section of the American Chemical Society, the 2004 CASE/Carnegie State of Michigan Professor of the Year, the 2004 Kendall-Hunt Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the Society for College Science Teachers, the 2003 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the National Science Teachers Association and 1999 Amoco Foundation Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

In addition, Coppola was among the first group of Carnegie Scholars affiliated with The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's CASTL program (Carnegie Academy on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning).

Coppola co-founded and was the first co-director of the IDEA Institute (Instructional Development and Educational Assessment), a collaboration between Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the School of Education. At the post-secondary level, IDEA activities broaden the scholarly development for all students (undergraduate to post-doctoral) who are interested in academic careers. Students have the opportunity to collaborate on teaching projects with the faculty members in the same way that they pursue their research projects. IDEA also targets precollege teaching and learning with the same challenge: how can teachers bring their own ideas forward by collaborating with university students and faculty members.

Coppola is a member of the editorial boards of The Chemical Educator, The International Journal of Science Education, the Journal of Science Education and Technology and the Journal of Chemical Education. He is an associate editor for The Journal for Research in Science Teaching, and he is the editor in chief of The Hexagon, the quarterly publication of Alpha Chi Sigma, the professional chemistry fraternity.

About Baylor

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275