Math Prof Wins Teaching Prize

March 23, 2010

Baylor University named Dr. Edward B. Burger, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Gaudino Scholar at Williams College in Massachusetts, as the 2010 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the only national teaching award --with the single largest monetary reward of $200,000--presented by a college or university to an individual for exceptional teaching.

"During our more than 160-year history, Baylor University has been recognized nationally for the emphasis we place on exceptional classroom teaching. Our students already benefit daily from our notable faculty, who understand and greatly appreciate the value of teaching," said Baylor Interim President Dr. David E. Garland. "The Cherry Award allows us to extend that experience by bringing to our campus some of the world's greatest teachers, such as Dr. Burger. We congratulate our 2010 Cherry Award recipient, and we look forward to welcoming him to Baylor University in the fall."

The Cherry Award program at Baylor is designed to honor great teachers, to stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and to encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. Individuals nominated for the award have a proven record as an extraordinary teacher with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students, along with a record of distinguished scholarship.

Burger has taught mathematics at Williams College since 1990. During that time, he has been honored with numerous teaching and writing awards, including the 2007 Award of Excellence from Tech & Learning magazine, the 2006 Reader's Digest "100 Best of America" as Best Math Teacher, and three national honors from the Mathematical Association of America. He has also authored or co-authored more than 30 research articles and 21 books and CD-ROM texts.

Burger's national reputation has allowed him to serve as a consultant for the "NUMB3RS in the Classroom Project" with CBS-TV/Paramount Studios/Texas Instruments and most recently with NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, on "The Science of the Olympic Winter Games," a video series exploring the science behind individual Olympic events that aired on the "Today Show" and throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage on NBC. 

As the 2010 Cherry Award recipient, Burger will receive the $200,000 award, plus $25,000 for his home department at Williams College. He will teach in residence at Baylor during fall 2010.

Dr. Heidi J. Hornik, chair of the Cherry Award Committee, said that although Burger's main focus is on undergraduate education, he also is concerned with math education on the secondary school level. In addition to teaching at Baylor in the fall, Burger plans to reach out to local schools and organizations to demonstrate his passion for mathematics and mathematical thinking.

"Ed Burger is, quite simply, a teaching phenomenon," said Dr. Lance Littlejohn, chair of Baylor's Department of Mathematics. "He is immaculately organized and extremely articulate with an engaging personality. He has an uncanny ability of taking very difficult mathematics concepts and making them understandable to all students. It is well known that, in Ed's classes, students are pumped with excitement when his class starts and, at the end of his lectures, they leave his classroom with an even higher feeling of exhilaration."

The Cherry Award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, who earned his A.B. from Baylor in 1929. He enrolled in the Baylor Law School in 1932 and passed the Texas State Bar Examination the following year. With a deep appreciation for how his life had been changed by significant teachers, he made an exceptional estate bequest to establish the Cherry Award program to recognize excellent teachers and bring them in contact with Baylor students. The inaugural Robert Foster Cherry Award was presented in 1991 and is now awarded biennially.