Students at the University of Rochester recently named Al Clark, professor of mechanical engineering, Teacher of the Year.
"Teaching has always been my highest priority," says Clark, a professor at the University for 30 years. "Now I'm more strongly convinced than ever that that's right. The whole purpose of the university is to bring students and faculty together. Teaching is the most important thing a professor can do."
Over the last two years Clark has developed a set of special mathematics courses for undergraduate engineering students. The courses apply math to real-life scenarios, for instance, developing mathematics to analyze a building's heating system, a population's growth rate, a car's suspension on a bumpy road, or the rate of depletion of a species by commercial fishing. Many students cite Clark as the best teacher they've ever had.
Teaching awards are nothing new for Clark. In 1987 the University awarded him the Edward Peck Curtis Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching; he also has five teaching awards from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. A graduate of Purdue University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark joined the University's faculty in 1964.
Clark is not the only member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering to win a teaching award. Last month Toshio Takahashi, a graduate student in the department, was one of five students to receive the Edward Peck Curtis Award for excellence in teaching by a graduate student. And last year James Li, who is Albert Arendt Hopeman Professor of Engineering, received the University Graduate Teaching Award.
"This department has a well-deserved reputation for excellent teaching," said department chair Richard Benson. "Al Clark is known as a kind, innovative teacher who encourages a lot of classroom dialogue. This award recognizes the admirable rapport he has with students." tr