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Anna C. O'Rourke believes the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award recognizes and honors excellence in teaching.
"The recipient should be someone who truly understands and strives every single day to fulfill the purpose of excellence as an educator," says O'Rourke, a UW student from Gillette. "This is Eric Nye."
O'Rourke's opinion is shared by dozens of former students and many of Nye's colleagues, all of whom praise his demanding yet passionate style of teaching.
Nye, Kent Becker, department head and associate professor in the Department of Professional Studies, and Allen Trent, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies, were all selected to receive this year's award, established in 1977 by Casper businessman John P. "Jack" Ellbogen, to "foster, encourage, and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW."
A Victorian scholar for the Department of English, Nye has crafted a reputation as a teaching "model" and one of the most important instructors at the university.
"He fervently believes in the power of literary inquiry to shape students into informed citizens who will pursue the social good. Consequently, he approaches each of his classes with a high seriousness, challenging students to read more rigorously than they ever have before," says Peter Parolin, head of the English department. "Students repeatedly mention in their course evaluations that 'this course was very stimulating and challenging,' or that 'Dr. Nye is tough, but I learned so much about the early Romantic period that it was worth the work.'
"Any teacher who excites students about pushing themselves beyond their intellectual comfort zones is doing a high order of work."
Another of Nye's former students, John L. Middleton, echoes Parolin.
"The difficulty of Dr. Nye's courses is often cited amongst his present and past students. He expects much more from you than the passive recitation of lecture notes," he says. "He wants you to open your mind and to evaluate critically every sentence that is read; nothing should be taken for granted merely because it has appeared in print."
And Nye, who joined the UW faculty as an assistant English professor in 1983, has only upgraded his level of teaching, says Cedric D. Reverand, a colleague in the English department.
"Professor Nye has been a well-respected, effective teacher for many years, but I think over the last several years, his teaching has hit a new level," Reverand says. "Students consistently find him stimulating, challenging, helpful and, to use the word that pops up most frequently in his evaluations, passionate about literature."
Nye is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota (B.A., '74) and the University of Chicago (M.A., '76; Ph.D., '83).