Finalists Selected for Baylor's $250,000 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

April 18, 2013

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WACO, Texas (April 18, 2013) - Three preeminent scholar/teachers from U.S. universities have been selected as finalists for Baylor University's 2014 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. The winning professor will be announced by Baylor in spring 2014.

The three finalists are:
• Meera Chandrasekhar, Ph.D., Curator's Teaching Professor of Physics, University of Missouri
• Joan Breton Connelly, Ph.D., Professor of Classics and Art History, New York University
• Michael K. Salemi, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As Cherry Award finalists, each professor will receive $15,000, as well as $10,000 for their home departments to foster the development of teaching skills. Each finalist will present a series of lectures at Baylor during fall 2013 and also a Cherry Award lecture on their home campuses during the upcoming academic year.

The eventual Cherry Award winner will receive $250,000 and an additional $25,000 for his/her home department and will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2014 or spring 2015.

"The Cherry Committee has the difficult task of naming three finalists from the strong field of nominees for the 2014 Cherry Award," said Michael W. Thompson, Ph.D., committee chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science. "Reading about each nominee's accomplishments and dedication to great teaching is both inspirational and humbling. The three finalists for the 2014 award are excellent scholars and great teachers. We look forward to their campus visits during the fall 2013 semester."

The Cherry Award program 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. Individuals nominated for the award have a proven record as an extraordinary teacher with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students, along with a record of distinguished scholarship.

The 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 first Robert Foster Cherry Award was made in 1991 and has since been awarded biennially. More about the Cherry Award is available at

Meera Chandrasekhar

Dr. Meera Chandrasekhar earned her B.Sc. degree in physics and mathematics from M.G.M. College, Mysore University in India, in 1968, master's degrees in physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, in 1970 and Brown University in 1973, and a Ph.D. in physics from Brown University in 1976. After a post doctoral fellowship at Max-Planck-Institut in Germany, she joined the University of Missouri faculty in 1978, where she currently serves as Curators' Teaching Professor of Physics.

Chandrasekhar's teaching and research has been recognized with many honors, including the 2006 President's Award for Outstanding Teaching from the University of Missouri, 2004 Curators' Distinguished Teaching Professorship from the University of Missouri, 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the National Science Foundation, 1998 Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, 1997 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence from the University of Missouri and 1990 Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences. She was honored in 2002 with the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indian Institute of Technology. She received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1985 and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1992.

Chandrasekhar's research interests are in the area of optical spectroscopy of semiconductors, superconductors and conjugated polymers, with an emphasis on high pressure studies. She has a strong interest in the education of young students, and has developed hands-on physics programs for students in grades 5-12 and summer institutes for K-12 teachers, activities for which she has received several awards.

Joan Breton Connelly

Dr. Joan Breton Connelly earned her B.A. in classics from Princeton University in 1976, a master's degree in classical and Near Eastern archaeology in 1979 and her Ph.D. in 1984, both from Bryn Mawr. She served as assistant dean of the Undergraduate College and lecturer in classical and Near Eastern archaeology at Bryn Mawr from 1982-84, before joining the faculty of art history and classics departments of New York University in 1986, where she currently serves as professor of classics and professor of art history. Since 1990, she has served as director of the NYU Yeronisos Island Excavations and Field School, Cyprus. In 2002, she received a citation from the Ministry of Communication and Works for her contribution to the exploration and preservation of Cypriot cultural heritage.

Connelly has earned several teaching awards, including the 2007 Archaeological Institute of America Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, 2002-04 Lillian Vernon Chair for Teaching Excellence at NYU and 1988 Golden Dozen Teaching Award from NYU. She also chairs the Archaeological Institute of America Committee on Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She has received numerous academic honors and fellowships and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, from 2003-2011. Her book, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece (Princeton University Press, 2007), was honored with the James R. Wiseman Book Award from the Archaeological Institute of America and the Professional/Scholarly Press Award for Best Book in Classics and Ancient History by the Association of American Publishers.

Connelly's research interests include Greek sculpture and vase painting, Greek myth and religion, Cypriot archaeology and the Hellenistic East.

Michael K. Salemi

Michael K. Salemi earned his B.A. in economics egregia cum laude from St. Mary's College, a master's degree in economics from Purdue University in 1969, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1976. He joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976 and currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Salemi also has received several teaching awards, including the 2012 Kenneth G. Elzinga Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Economic Association, the Bowman and Gordon Gray Professorship for Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction from the University of North Carolina from 1987-1990 and 2005-2010, the 2007 Great Teacher in Economics Award from the Gus Stavros Center at Florida State University, the 1998 Marvin Bower Medal from the National Council on Economic Education for significant contributions to American students' understanding of economics, and the 2001 Villard Research Award from the Association of Economic Educators. Involved with teacher education since 1974, Salemi has chaired the Committee on Economic Education of the American Economic Association (AEA) and was co-principal investigator for an AEA-National Science Foundation project to promote interactive teaching strategies in college-level economics courses. He was elected to the Society of Economics Educators and served as president in 2004.

Salemi is the author of more than 40 published articles in macroeconomics, domestic and international monetary theory, and economic education. His recent projects deal with optimal monetary policy, strategies for reforming the college-level principles of economics course, and using discussion of classic and current articles to teach undergraduate economics.


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