Crystal Apples fall into the hands of revered faculty

Richard York shows his new award (photo by Dillon Pilorget)

For three exceptional faculty members, receiving an apple for teaching may never have been so sweet. Last week, University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson paid surprise visits to a trio of educators and presented them with Crystal Apple awards.

The Crystal Apple is an annual award given to three outstanding professors who are nominated by students and colleagues. This year’s winners are Richard York from Sociology, Sara Hodges from Psychology, and Colin Koopman from Philosophy.

Gottfredson first surprised sociologist Richard York in his office as he met with a graduate student. York rose to greet Gottfredson with a look of boyish excitement, assumedly suspicious of the great honor that he was about to receive. When York peeked into the hallway to see the crowd of sociology colleagues and graduate students that had gathered to share in his excitement, he seemed taken aback by the support. Having shown a great affinity for graduate student mentorship, York said, “Working with students is a very rewarding part of being a professor. It is touching to be recognized in this way.”

Sara Hodges of the Psychology Department was next, and the president paid her class a visit as a student was giving a presentation. As Gottfredson approached her with the small blue box from Tiffany & Co. that hid the Crystal Apple, one student thought he was going to propose, she later told Hodges. “Clearly,” Hodges said, “there have been too many episodes of 'The Bachelor!'”

Hodges attributed her success as a teacher to the perpetual learning she has done with students and colleagues. “There is a tacit -- and sometimes spoken out loud -- message that spending time on teaching is for ‘suckers.’ But I love teaching,” Hodges said. “Anyway, if I'm going to be a sucker, it's really nice to get an award for it!”

York and Hodges both received Crystal Apples in the name of the Thomas F. Herman award, one that is given to faculty members who have been with the UO for at least seven years and have demonstrated excellence in teaching throughout.

Dave Hubin, senior assistant to the president, stood in to present the Ersted award – the Crystal Apple for faculty members comparatively early in their careers – to the Philosophy Department’s Colin Koopman.

When Mark Johnson, interim head of the department, walked into his graduate seminar followed by Hubin and a stream of others, Koopman said he knew it could only be good news. “I think I was almost silent through the whole thing,” he said. “In short, I was speechless.”

Koopman smiled modestly at his students as Hubin recounted the list of attributes that qualified him for the award. But Koopman says he is not the only junior faculty member striving to promote the UO’s mission.

“All junior faculty pour an immense amount of time and energy into their courses, many of which are new or experimental for us, and many of which are directly related to our research," he said. "It is to UO's credit that they had the wisdom to create an award to recognize our efforts here.”

- by Dillon Pilorget, UO Office of Strategic Communications intern