Baylor Honors University of Texas Professor with $250,000 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

Jay L. Banner, Ph.D., F. M. Bullard Professor at UT-Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, selected for national teaching award, will teach in residence at Baylor in spring 2025

January 23, 2024
2024 Cherry Award Recipient Jay Banner

(Photo courtesy of University of Texas)

Contact: Kelly Craine, Baylor University Media & Public Relations, 254-297-9065
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 WACO, Texas (Jan. 23, 2024) – Baylor University today named Jay L. Banner, Ph.D., F. M. Bullard Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, as the 2024 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

The Cherry Award announcement was made during the Spring Baylor Faculty Meeting hosted by Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.

Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award is a prestigious 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 award program is designed to honor great teachers, stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and encourage departments and institutions to recognize their own great teachers. Along with a record of distinguished scholarship, individuals nominated for the Cherry Award have proven themselves as extraordinary teachers with positive, inspiring and long-lasting effects on students. 

As the 2024 Cherry Award recipient, Banner will receive the $250,000 award and an additional $25,000 for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UT’s Jackson School of Geosciences to further Baylor University’s commitment to great teaching. Banner is expected to teach in residence at Baylor during the 2025 spring semester.

Cherry Award finalists Clair Katz, Ph.D., The Claude H. Everette Jr. ’47 Endowed Chair in Education and Professor of Philosophy and Education and head of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M, and Kelly Lambert, Ph.D., MacEldin Trawick Chair and Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Richmond, each received $15,000, while their home departments also received $10,000 for the development of teaching skills. 

“Dr. Jay Banner is an academic innovator whose teaching and educational programs have impacted thousands of students. His teaching-related accomplishments include an abundance of awards, grants and publications with students. He is the type of legendary teacher for whom the Cherry Award was created,” said Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., Cherry Award committee chair, professor of sociology and department graduate program director.

When asked, “What makes a great teacher?” Banner replied, “When I think of great teachers I’ve known, they share their excitement of discovery about how the world works. If a teacher can take a complex concept, whether it’s in science, engineering or the humanities, and help students understand it and be excited about having learned it, that’s what it’s all about.”

Banner visited Baylor in October 2023 to present his Cherry Award finalist lecture, “21st Century Texas: Climate, Water, Science, and Society.” His research interests center on climate and hydrologic processes, how they are preserved in the geologic record, including in caves, and how human activities affect the sustainability of water resources. He also serves as director of the Environmental Science Institute at UT-Austin.

His teaching interests are in sustainability, environmental science, geochemistry and environmental justice. His K-12 and community engagement initiatives include Hot Science – Cool Talks, the Scientist in Residence program, which partners STEM graduate-student researchers with K-12 teachers, and a new project (CRESSLE) that partners researchers and community members to address resilience challenges in underserved communities.

Banner is a member of UT-Austin’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a recipient of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Award and the UT System Regents Outstanding Teaching Award,  and is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

On the UT-Austin faculty since 1990, Banner earned his B.A. in geology at the University of Pennsylvania, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in earth sciences from State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The Cherry 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. 


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.