In keeping with tradition, the Friar Society interrupted Dr. Christopher Kirk's class on Monday to award him the 2010-11 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship.
Students, faculty and staff followed a single trumpeter into the lecture hall to watch as Friar co-chairs, Noble Kuriakose and Zuhair Khan, handed Kirk a check for $25,000. The annual award goes to a full-time, tenured or tenure-track undergraduate professor, and is the largest award for undergraduate teaching excellence at the university.
"First, let me say I'm not often speechless up here on the stage, but wow," said Kirk, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. "I guess the first thing to say is thank you to the Friar Society. Thank you to everybody who was kind enough to speak out on my behalf, for writing letters. I'm humbled to be in the league of people who win the Friar -- it's just incredible."
Kirk was among more than 100 nominations for this year's fellowship. The Friar Society has been presenting the award since 1983. Thanks to an increase in financial support this year, the Friar Society was able to expand the award from $15,000 to $25,000.
Kuriakose said Kirk had "stiff competition" this year, but the society was honored to present the award to Dr. Kirk.
"We were really impressed, everyone on the committee was really impressed, walking into your class to observe it," said Noble. "This is a small token of appreciation for what you do for students at The University of Texas, and we hope you continue to do the same."
Kirk said he believes his teaching success comes from sharing his enthusiasm and passion for physical anthropology.
"In all honesty, I think that you can get people swept up in the excitement if you love what you do," Kirk said. "When the course evaluations all say it's obvious that you love what you do, and it's obvious that you get excited about what you do, I think that's when you know you're on the right track."