Top-notch teaching adds up

James Vick, professor and administrator in his 42 years at The University of Texas at Austin, is the winner of the 2012 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, one of the highest prizes for teaching on campus.

Student Government President Natalie Butler and Professor James Vick
Student Government President Natalie Butler surprises Professor James Vick with his $25,000 check. Photo: Marsha Miller

The $25,000 award, presented by the 101-year-old Friar Society, is for one year and goes to a full-time, tenured or tenure-track undergraduate professor.

The fellowship is the largest award for undergraduate teaching excellence at the university.

Vick was teaching about the chain rule to his Calculus II class of about 125 students when members of the Longhorn Band playing "Texas Fight" marched into the room. They were followed by Friar Society members, several previous Friar Award winners and friends and colleagues of Vick.

Natalie Butler, student government president and Friar Society member, presented Vick with an oversized check for $25,000.

She said Vick was the easiest selection the Friar Society has made.

"You are so deserving," she said. "You've given so much to the university."

Colleagues, students and friends formed the entourage
Colleagues, students and friends formed the entourage, including several former Friar awardees, including Michael Stoff (far left) and Michael Starbird (second from left). Photo: Marsha Miller

"This is a great university," Vick said. "I've taught a lot of good students and worked with a lot of good people. If you're surrounded by good people who are willing to give to each other and to the university, it turns out to be a great place."

Nodding to the students and friends, he said, "You're the reason I'm here and the reason I've enjoyed it so much."

The Friar Award reinforces what The Alcalde wrote about Vick in 2004 when he stepped down from his post as vice president for student affairs.

"Many (students) describe him as a father figure. His willingness to listen to and fight for students has made him perhaps the most beloved administrator. He attends student events religiously, sits in on Student Government meetings and keeps in touch with hundreds of former students."

This is the latest in a number of teaching awards won by Vick, the Ashbel Smith Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Mathematics.

Professor James Vick
Vick is a member of the university's Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a recipient of The University of Texas System Board of Regents Award for undergraduate teaching. Photo: Marsha Miller

He's a member of the university's Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a recipient of The University of Texas System Board of Regents Award for undergraduate teaching.

There's even an award named for him: Texas Exes James W. Vick Award for Academic Advising.

Founded in 1911, the Friar Society is the university's oldest and most respected honor society. Students across campus nominate their favorite professors for the award, and a committee of Friar Society student members selects the award recipient. Decisions are based on in-class observation and consideration of contributions outside the classroom.

Vick made his students' day just a bit sweeter when he ended the ceremony with the words, "Class dismissed."