Peter J. (PJ) Alaimo
Former student of Brian P. Coppola
2009 Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year
Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel
Nov. 19, 2009
It is both a pleasure and a true honor for me to introduce Dr. Brian P. Coppola as the national recipient of the U.S. Professor of the Year Award for 2009.
I have known Dr. Coppola for more than 18 years, starting when he was my organic chemistry professor at the University of Michigan in 1991. Over the years, he has been much more than a teacher for me. He has been a scientific mentor, a professional advisor and a dear friend. In the years covering my undergraduate career, my graduate studies, my postdoctoral research, and my professional career, I have never known anyone more deserving of this award.
Few students enroll in Brian's courses as an elective; most organic chemistry students are seeking the content needed to ace the MCAT and move on to medical school. However, students in Dr. Coppola's classes get much more than content. Of course, he is a dynamic, clear and engaging communicator. Of course, his artful drawing skills make chemistry appear in three dimensions. Of course, his mastery of the subject goes well beyond the course material. What sets him apart from other outstanding professors is his clear commitment to modeling the life of a thoughtful intellectual, and the ways in which he engages students during their educational journey.
Brian views his students as partners in a process-the process of teaching and learning. While the content of organic chemistry is important in his courses, he clearly strives to achieve more than that. Brian sees himself as a mentor of the whole person. He has a moral conviction to demonstrate to students the ways in which they serve as teachers and how teachers are expert learners. The personal respect he has for students as educational partners in a cycle of teaching and learning has been evident in every interaction I have had with him.
I know many faculty members who are excited about teaching and gifted at training students to become thoughtful and meticulous practitioners; indeed, I am honored to have studied with several such mentors. But Brian is an exceptional example. As I reflect on our mutual education together, I consider how fortunate I am to have been trained to consider science both as a subject to engage actively and as a vehicle for learning how to learn. He is a large part of why I have decided to dedicate my life to undergraduate chemistry education. It is my sincere hope that I have affected Brian (and my own students) as profoundly as Brian has affected me.
Please join me in congratulating Dr. Brian Coppola, the 2009 Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year.
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