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

March 30, 2017

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WACO, Texas (March 30, 2017) – Three preeminent scholar/teachers from U.S. universities have been selected as finalists for Baylor University's 2018 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 2018.

The three finalists are:

Heidi G. Elmendorf, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, Georgetown University

Neil K. Garg, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, UCLA

Clinton O. Longenecker, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Leadership, The University of Toledo

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 2017 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 or her home department and will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2018 or spring 2019.

“With close to 100 nominees from a very strong field, the Cherry Committee had the difficult task of naming three finalists for the 2018 Cherry Award,” said Michael W. Thompson, Ph.D., committee chair and associate dean for undergraduate programs in Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science. “It is gratifying and inspirational to learn about each nominee’s accomplishments and dedication to great teaching. The three finalists for the 2018 award are excellent scholars and great teachers, and we look forward to hosting their campus visits during the fall 2017 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 proven records as extraordinary teachers with positive, inspiring and long-lasting effects on students, along with records of distinguished scholarship.

The award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, who earned his A.B. from Baylor in 1929. He enrolled in 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

Heidi G. Elmendorf

Elmendorf earned her A.B. degree in biology, magna cum laude, Sigma Xi, Phi Beta Kappa, from Princeton University in 1988 and her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in 1993 from Stanford University, where she was a National Science Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellow. In 1999, she began teaching at Georgetown University, where she serves as associate professor of biology, as well as director of the Regents Science Scholars Program. She taught high school from 1993-1996 and then in a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health from 1996-1999.

Elmendorf has won numerous awards for scholarship and teaching, including being named the 2014 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching D.C. Professor of the Year. In 2016, she received the Edward J. Bunn Award for Faculty Excellence from Georgetown University, where she also earned the Georgetown Commitment to Diversity Faculty Award in 2009 and the Dorothy Brown Award in Teaching in 2005. In 2006, Elmendorf was named a Carnegie Visiting Scholar. She has won the Georgetown College Academic Council Award in 2011 and 2017.

Elmendorf is engaged in research on the intestinal pathogen, Giardia lamblia, a significant cause of diarrheal disease in humans and animals around the world. She has received numerous National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation grants. She is the director of undergraduate students and studies and teaches a wide range of courses within the biology department. She is also the founder and director of an educational partnership between science and math departments at Georgetown and the D.C. Public Schools.

Neil K. Garg

Garg earned his B.S. in chemistry, magna cum laude with honors, from New York University in 2000 and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 2005 from the California Institute of Technology, where he was a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow. From 2005-07, Garg was a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow. He began teaching in 2007 at UCLA, where he is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. From 2012–2016 he served as vice chair for education. He is also Faculty-in-Residence for UCLA Residential Life.

Garg has earned numerous awards for his teaching and research, including California’s U.S. Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2015 and the Elias J. Corey Award for Outstanding Original Contribution in Organic Synthesis in 2017. He was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and received the group’s Merck Award in 2016. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship that year as well.

Garg’s research specializes in the field of synthetic organic chemistry. His research group has made breakthroughs that have solved long-standing problems in chemistry, and much of the chemistry he and his colleagues have discovered is now used by practitioners in the pharmaceutical industry seeking to make the medicines of tomorrow. He has published more than 75 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and two patents while at UCLA, and he has been invited to give more than 170 lectures worldwide. Garg is a popular teacher of undergraduate-level organic chemistry and challenges his students to overcome their pre-fabricated perceptions of the subject. He is known to engage students by showing them the relevance of organic chemistry in everyday life using online tutorials and giving them the opportunity to create organic chemistry music videos, all while teaching them to solve extraordinarily difficult problems. His class is one of the most popular classes at UCLA and was featured in the magazine LA Weekly as being one of the best in the city of Los Angeles.

Clinton O. Longenecker

Longenecker earned his B.B.A. in marketing (1977) and his M.B.A. in marketing (1978) from The University of Toledo. He earned his Ph.D. in management from Pennsylvania State University in 1984. He serves as Distinguished University Professor of Leadership and director of the Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence in The College of Business and Innovation at The University of Toledo.

Longenecker has received more than 60 teaching, service and research awards and numerous industry awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (2004), Toastmaster International Leadership Award (2009), The Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service (2008) and numerous teaching recognitions. In 2006, he was inducted into the Entrepreneurial and Business Excellence Hall of Fame. In 2015, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Medical Missions Hall of Fame for his volunteer work in Haiti. In 2013, he was recognized by The Economist as one of the Top Fifteen Business Professors in the World.

Longenecker’s teaching, research and consulting interests are in high-performance leadership and creating great organizations. He has published more than 190 articles and papers in academic and professional journals, including the Sloan Management Review, Industrial Management, Business Horizons, European Business Review and Organizational Dynamics. He is a frequent media source and his research has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, MSNBC and NPR.

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 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 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.