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John Bravman, professor of materials science and engineering, has been named to the Bing Centennial Professorship, a university-wide position that recognizes the highest level of excellence in teaching.
"This appointment was made on the unanimous recommendation of the deans of the Schools of Humanities and Sciences, Earth Sciences, and Engineering in recognition of your extraordinary record of teaching excellence, your commitment to undergraduates, and your dedication to making Stanford the best education institution it can be," wrote Provost Condoleezza Rice in the letter informing Bravman of his selection.
The selection was made from a pool of 95 faculty members who have received teaching awards in the last five years.
The professorship was awarded for a three-year term, from July 1997 to July 2000. Bravman becomes only the second faculty member to receive this honor. Brad Osgood, associate professor of mathematics, was named the first Bing Professor in 1992 and was given a two-year extension in 1995.
The professorship, which was established by a $5-million endowment by Peter and Helen Bing, carries an annual stipend of $15,000. One-third of the money can be used for any purpose and two-thirds must be used to improve teaching or the curriculum. In addition, the recipient's department receives $10,000 per year to use for similar improvements.
"The entire school is delighted," said John Hennessy, dean of the School of Engineering. "John's dedication to students is known in the school and across the university. His classroom performance is unparalleled in the school and his dedication to students is remarkable."
According to Michele Marincovich, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, "John's teaching has been so extraordinary that it has raised the standard in the school and the department. I have heard his colleagues discuss his Tau Beta Pi [the online course guide] ratings with awe."
Marincovich summarized three themes that characterize Bravman's teaching: the clarity and organization of his lectures and especially his use of technology aids to make even the most complex material more easily understandable; his open-door policy and his willingness to answer students' questions or meet with them late into the night or early in the morning; and his ability to interest students in even the driest of material.
These themes were illustrated by the letters from a number of students in support of his nomination.
"His lectures are engaging and crucial to the understanding of the course material," said materials science and engineering junior Wendelin Wright. "The lecture handouts that he spends hours preparing are far superior to the available textbooks. His door is always open to students for them to express their questions and concerns."
Wright told of an occasion where, due to an earlier power outage, she had worked all night to finish a problem set for one of his classes. Knowing that Bravman comes to work early in the morning, she called him at 5:30 a.m. Not only was he there, but he was available immediately to answer her questions.
Materials science and engineering co-term student Adam Durfee recounted the efforts that Bravman made so that students studying at Stanford's Center for Technology and Innovation in Kyoto, Japan, could take E50, Introductory science of Materials by videotape and e-mail. "It was the first time the E50 video course was offered at any overseas center and we certainly had our share of technical and logistical problems. Through it all, Professor Bravman was very supportive, giving and tireless in his efforts to make the class work for the students."
The Bing Professorship is Bravman's eighth award for teaching. He has received the School of Engineering Distinguished Advisor Award, the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Engineering Teaching and a Bing Teaching Fellowship. In addition his teaching has been honored by the Society of Black Scientists and Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and ASM International.
Since 1993 Bravman has served as the associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the School of Engineering and last year took on the duties of chairman of the materials science and engineering department.
By David F. Salisbury