Harlow Receives Top UW Faculty Award

April 20, 2012
Man holding polar bear
Professor Hank Harlow, here with a tranquilized polar bear in the Arctic, is the recipient of the 2012 George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Faculty Award.

As a researcher, he has crawled into dens of hibernating bears in the Rocky Mountains, has been chased by Komodo dragons in Indonesia and has tranquilized polar bears in the Arctic Circle.

As a teacher, he has captivated generations of students in the University of Wyoming's Department of Zoology and Physiology.

And, since 1993, he has been an effective ambassador for UW, helping make the UW-National Park Service Research Center in Grand Teton National Park a significant center for research and community outreach.

For that record of distinction in research, instruction and service, Professor Henry "Hank" Harlow has been honored as the 2012 recipient of the George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Faculty Award. Named for UW's 13th president, it is the university's highest faculty honor.

"Dr. Harlow is clearly a gifted, master teacher and a very successful and respected researcher, and his successes as a teacher and researcher bring great credit to the university," wrote Harold Bergman, head of UW's Department of Zoology and Physiology. "Hank has made a huge positive impression on a large number of students, colleagues from both on and off campus, agency scientists, administrators and the general public."

Harlow joined the UW faculty in 1981 as an assistant professor of zoology and physiology, and he immediately made his mark in the classroom as a demanding, yet extremely effective teacher. He was honored in 1988 with the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Faculty Classroom Teaching Award and has been recognized numerous times by the College of Arts and Sciences for teaching excellence.

He also has been a prolific researcher. Bergman describes Harlow as "arguably the world's expert" on hibernation in bears and other mammals, based largely upon his examinations of animals in the wild. Komodo dragons, vampire bats and prairie dogs also have been research targets. His most recent research has been on the effects of climate change on polar bears in the Arctic.

"Hank has a knack for addressing questions of great interest to both the public, and his students and colleagues . and he can describe his results clearly," wrote Dennis Knight, professor emeritus in UW's Department of Botany. "A long, steady publication rate in prominent journals suggests that he is much appreciated by his peers, and he certainly has had a favorable impact on UW's image around the state and region."

But Harlow's colleagues and others agree that his most significant contribution to UW has been his work as director of the research center in Grand Teton. The center, housed in historic National Park Service buildings at the former AMK Ranch on the shores of Jackson Lake, has risen in prominence under his leadership.

"The station has become an incredibly active and productive facility, providing lodging and logistical support for a variety of research groups working in northwest Wyoming on projects critical to managing and conserving the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," wrote Scott Seville, professor of zoology and physiology, and associate dean of UW's Outreach School. "During his tenure, what was once a sleepy, comfortable and little known summer retreat for a select group of scientists, has become an active, bustling research facility."

Harlow, who lives at the center for four to five months each year, works with a small staff to maintain the facilities while assisting the visiting researchers and doing research of his own.

"Hank somehow manages to pilot the station through the hectic summer research season while simultaneously maintaining his own research program at an extremely high level," wrote Daniel Tinker, associate professor in UW's Department of Botany. "Indeed, some of his best and most notable scientific work has been done over the past 10 years -- truly remarkable for someone trying to appease dozens of needy researchers every day for four months of the year."

As part of his work at the research center, Harlow has organized a weekly seminar series that draws from several dozen to as many as 175 people one evening each week throughout the summer.

Harlow earned a bachelor's degree in biology (1966) and a master's degree in physiology (1973) from California State University-Fullerton. He received his doctorate in physiology at UW in 1979.

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