Trachtenberg gives award, money to religion professor

Religion professor Dewey Wallace received the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Teaching Award, one of the highest awards the University gives to faculty, at a ceremony at Duques Hall Friday.

“It is gratifying to feel that the effort I have put into teaching has been recognized,” said Wallace, who has been at GW for 33 years. “But (the award) also means to me a recognition of the intellectual sharpening that I have received from students and faculty colleagues.”

The Trachtenberg Teaching Award, established by University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in 1990 in honor of his parents, is a $1,000 prize given to outstanding tenured teachers at the undergraduate level.

Trachtenberg said as GW becomes increasingly known as a research institution, faculty and administrators need to recognize good teaching.

“The spirit of the institution has to do more with what we believe, and our values. It has to do with students and with teachers,” Trachtenberg said, adding that he hopes incoming President Steven Knapp will continue to recognize outstanding teachers in the future.

He also joked about the benefits of rewarding older professors.

“One of the things that are good about rewarding people who are mature and accomplished is that there’s less of a chance for them to get into trouble later,” he said.

Wallace said he still uses a blackboard and chalk and that his teaching methods are conventional, consisting mainly of lectures and class discussions.

“I hope that I have interested students in my subject, informed them about it and taught them to think analytically,” he said.

Wallace teaches a section of an introductory course on Western Religion as well as advanced courses on the history of Christianity and religion in the United States. At the ceremony, Wallace gave a sample lecture on the interpreters of religion in the United States.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman presented Wallace with the award at what was called the “Celebration of Teaching Excellence.” He also remarked on Wallace’s long-standing commitment to the University.

“I was particularly thrilled to see professor Wallace’s name come across my desk in this particular context, not only because he is so deserving, but it’s always nice to see someone recognized who’s been at the University longer than I have,” Lehman said.

He said the qualifications for the award includes commitment, energy and a kind and generous spirit. He called Wallace’s contributions to teaching excellence a gift to the University.

“What’s so impressive is the ability to engage young students in the subject matter, and professor Wallace continues to do just that,” he said.

Senior Emily Karrs, one of the students who nominated Wallace, said going to his class was like going to watch her favorite TV show.

“I think one of the things I loved about his course was that I learned things I use every day in my life,” Karrs said.

Several graduate teaching assistants were also recognized at the event. Recipients of the Philip Amsterdam Graduate Teaching Assistant Award included Jennifer Chubb of mathematics, Hiroyuki Hikawa of statistics and Darby Thompson of computer science. Thomas Farmer and Farid Hassani, both of electrical and computer engineering, received honorable mentions for the award.

“I’m basically just honored that there are students out there who think of me as a good teacher,” Thompson said. “I just like being in the classroom with my students.”

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