The inaugural winners of Texas A&M University's new $25,000 teaching excellence awards - believed to be the highest monetary value in the nation from a single institution making such presentations annually - are Professor William H. Bassichis of the Department of Physics and Professor Ludy T. Benjamin Jr. of the Department of Psychology.

Texas A&M President Robert M. Gates, who announced the winners Thursday (April 24), created the special awards earlier this year to underscore the importance of outstanding teaching at a major research university. Formal presentations will be made at commencement exercises next month.

The awards include the title of "Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence," and the recipient will retain that title for the remainder of his or her career.

President Robert M. Gates surprised Professor William H. Bassichis in his classroom on Friday with award annoucement.

Bassichis has taught physics at Texas A&M since 1970 and helped establish the university's Mentor Program. He is a recipient of the university-wide Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching and two College of Science Faculty Distinguished Achievement Awards for Teaching, all presented by The Association of Former Students.

Bassichis is author of a widely used physics textbook series, has served as a consultant to the Department of Energy, has had more than 50 scientific articles published and is a founding member of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate

Benjamin, who has taught at Texas A&M for 23 years, holds the Glasscock Professorship in Undergraduate Teaching Excellence and the Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching. He has won several national teaching awards, among them the Distinguished Teaching in Psychology Award from the American Psychological Foundation and the Distinguished Career Contributions to Education and Training Award from the American Psychological Association.

At Texas A&M, Benjamin has received The Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award and The Association of Former Students Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in Teaching. He has conducted more than 50 workshops in 13 states, edited or written six textbooks in psychology and has had 25 articles published on the teaching of psychology.

When Gates announced the new teaching excellence award last January, he said the most important criteria are "commitment to and excellence in teaching in all its dimensions."

"A great university has great teachers. Texas A&M has some of the finest teachers in the world, and we want to recognize them," he added.

He pointed out that Texas A&M already has numerous awards for teaching, with many of them funded by The Association of Former Students. "Even so, I believe Texas A&M University itself must make a stronger statement to the importance of teaching, and that is why these new awards are being established," he said.

Nomination of the recipients was made by faculty members, deans and student leaders.


Contact: Lane Stephenson, Office of University Relations, Texas A&M University;
l-stephenson@tamu.edu or (979) 845-4662.

Press Coverage:
"A&M professors awarded $25,000" - The Bryan-College Station Eagle (04/25/2003)

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