Oct 21, 2021
Marvin Pritts, Cornell hort team leader, among honorees for excellence

Ten faculty members have been selected to receive Stephen H. Weiss Awards honoring excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring, Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack announced Oct. 18.

“The Weiss Awards highlight the centrality of undergraduate education at Cornell, and I’m delighted that we’re able to recognize our exceptional faculty for their achievements,” Pollack said. “It’s especially wonderful to have such a large group of talented and accomplished teachers to celebrate this year, after last year’s awards hiatus because of the pandemic.”

Three awards are named in honor of the late Stephen H. Weiss ’57, who chaired the Cornell University Board of Trustees from 1989-97. Weiss conceived of the Presidential Fellowship Award, first bestowed in 1992 to recognize a sustained record of commitment to undergraduate education. The board in 2016 introduced the Junior Fellowship Award, recognizing early-career tenured faculty, and the Provost’s Teaching Fellowship Award, honoring nontenured faculty members.

Marvin Pritts

A selection committee of six faculty members and three students (two graduate students and one undergraduate) recommended this year’s recipients after reviewing 20 nominations detailing the instructors’ skill and dedication inside and outside the classroom, based on course evaluations and letters from students and faculty or staff.

The Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellows are Sandra Greene, the Stephen ’59 and Madeline ’60 Anbinder Professor of African History, in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S); Jane Juffer, professor in the Department of Literatures in English and Program of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (A&S); Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor in the Department of Astronomy (A&S); Marvin Pritts, professor in the School of Integrated Plant Science (SIPS) Horticulture Section and the Department of Global Development, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); David Putnam, professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering and Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, in the College of Engineering (ENG); and Michael Thompson, M.S. ’82, Ph.D. ’84, the Dwight C. Baum Professor in Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (ENG).

Marvin Pritts, a Cornell faculty member since 1984, serves as director of undergraduate studies for the SIPS Horticulture Section.

Nominators recognized him as a champion of engaged learning who instills a love of horticulture in students. He balances “mind, body and heart” across a wide variety of courses, from horticultural science to a leadership course for graduate students to a popular course for students outside the plant science major.

Pritts has an innovative sense of teaching and thinks critically and holistically, including creating both peer-mentorship and peer-teaching programs, nominators wrote. Students appreciate his informal interaction and mentorship and cultivation of community.

“Marvin’s efforts increased the quality of students in the plant breeding field,” colleagues said.

James Dean, Cornell University

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