President's Excellence in Teaching Award

A liberal arts education is uniquely capable of preparing today’s students for lives of engaged citizenship in a rapidly changing global society. Puget Sound is known for its exceptional teaching faculty, a critical element of a challenging and rewarding educational experience.

The Puget Sound President’s Excellence in Teaching Award was established by former trustee Hal Eastman ’60 and his wife, Jacque ’61, to recognize faculty members who demonstrate exceptional teaching skills, independent of accomplishments in scholarship, research, or publication. Recipients are selected for their genuine passion for teaching, an ability to inspire students to learn, a capacity to set high expectations and challenge students to meet them, a respect for students as individuals, an enduring intellectual curiosity, and the capacity for growth, change, and vitality in the classroom and beyond.


John WesleyJohn Wesley (2020)
Professor and Associate Chair, Department of English
A professor of early modern British literature, John Wesley joined the Puget Sound faculty in 2011, and teaches courses on Shakespeare, Milton, the Bible as literature, and the history of the English language, as well as first-year seminars on the history of comedy, the problem of evil, and postmodernism. His research focuses on 16th- and 17-century reception of classical rhetorical theory, mainly in terms of its impact on the theater, language, and education. Students comment on his enthusiasm and how the excitement with which he teaches difficult, dense texts inspires them. Colleagues describe his classrooms as “dynamic places where learning is exciting, collaborative, and deeply humanitarian.” Wesley brings medieval and Renaissance literature to life. He teaches classes that “inculcate in students the tendency to think critically about how and why they think the way they do, to question their assumptions, and thus to be circumspect about the social and political ends of their own critical perspectives.”

Greta AustinGreta Austin (2019)

Director, Gender and Queer Studies Program

Professor, Department of Religious Studies

Chair, Graduate Fellowships Advisory Committee

James Dolliver National Endowment for the Humanities Professor

Greta Austin is a recognized scholar on medieval church law with a research focus on the law of the Catholic Church during the central Middle Ages. Her scholarship on topics such as feuds, just war, and the portrayal of the Middle Ages in film have appeared in academic journals including SpeculumZeutschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Pangryus, and The American Scholar, as well as in her book, Shaping Church Law Around the Year 1000: The Decretum of Burchard of Worms. Described as energetic, passionate, and intellectually challenging, Austin teaches courses on the history and law of Christianity, violence and religion, religious theory, and gender, feminist, and queer studies. She is known to motivate students to become passionate about "even the densest of material," and has an engaging way of being vulnerable in the classroom, inviting and encouraging an environment of mutual learning in all of her courses.

Terry BeckTerry Beck, M.Ed.'90 (2018)
Professor, School of Education
With K-12 classroom experience in suburban and reservation schools, as well as a special focus in gifted education (grades three through six) and almost a decade as a public school principal, Terry Beck is a teacher's teacher. He has been the driving force behind the Puget Sound education studies minor—not only creating it, but teaching all of the courses it offers, covering topics such as literacy and masculinity in American schools. Beck has particular interest in democratic citizenship in education, especially the role of classroom talk in fostering the knowledge, skills, and dispositions a democratic society requires. Through a holistic approach to teaching and learning, he adapts courses to meet his students' needs as developing professionals, and colleagues and students, alike, call him knowledgeable, passionate, accessible, organized, clear, engaging, fair, challenging, and supportive. Beck exemplifies a genuine passion and enduring capacity for growth, change, and vitality—truly the measures of excellence in teaching at Puget Sound.

Roger AllenRoger Allen (2017)
Professor, School of Physical Therapy
Roger Allen is described by colleagues as an inspiration to students and colleagues alike, a seasoned master of the teaching craft, who “exemplifies what teaching means at this institution.” He works consistently to keep up with rapidly advancing knowledge in the field and to incorporate cutting edge information and techniques into his courses. Teaching courses on anatomy, neuroscience, functional neuroanatomy, and the psychological aspects of physical therapy practice, Allen maintains a deep respect for student curiosity, a dedication to modeling clinical thinking, and a focus on helping students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for their life-career work. Over the last five years, he has mentored 36 students in group-based research projects and organized a new research symposium for his program. 

Gerard MorrisGerard Morris (2016)
Associate Professor, School of Music

As director of Concert Band and the Puget Sound Wind Ensemble, and associate professor of conducting in the School of Music, Gerard Morris touches the lives of large numbers of students each year. He inherited ensembles in need of improvement and his achievement of that improvement is, indeed, impressive. In recommending Morris to Ron Thomas as the nominee for the 2016 award, the Advancement Committee was especially impressed at the work he has accomplished with the Wind Ensemble. By building an ambitious repertoire, developing students’ technique, pushing students to “hear across the ensemble” to improve musicality, and developing a strong sense of pride among ensemble members, the group has received juried invitations to perform at state, regional, and national conferences—all of which speaks to Gerard’s resounding success as a teacher. Morris also was recognized in 2016 with the Exemplary Teacher Award by General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church. The award recognizes outstanding faculty members at United Methodist-related schools, colleges, and universities who exemplify excellence in teaching.

Grace Livingston

Grace Livingston (2015)
Associate Professor, African American Studies

Trained across a broad range of disciplines—education, comparative literature, history, sociology, and theology—Grace Livingston is particularly interested in how knowledge is produced. In courses such as Introduction to African American Studies, Narratives of Race, and Imaging Blackness: Black Film and Black Identity, Livingston and her students address difficult questions about how we shape and remember the past, are entangled in and engage raw truths of the present, and use critical examination of past and present to forge a better future. Whether in the classroom, in rehearsal on the stage, in the writing center, in intensive work with teaching and learning partners in the community, or in thoughtful preparation of the Race and Pedagogy National Conference program, Livingston prompts all involved along paths toward social justice.

Monica DeHartMonica DeHart (2014)
Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
Director, Latin American Studies

Monica DeHart's work focuses on the intersection between development and identity politics, especially in relation to Latin America. She is especially interested in the role that gender, class, and ethnic difference play in shaping people's identities and relations within transnational communities and development projects. DeHart's current research investigates the question of how China's increasing presence in Latin America is changing the definitions, practices, and politics of economic development in the region. Her courses include Cultural Anthropology, Social and Cultural Change (An Anthropology of Development), and Border Crossings: Transnational Migration and Diaspora Studies.

Gwynne BrownGwynne Brown (2013)
Associate Professor, Music History and Music Theory

Gwynne Kuhner Brown is a musicologist, pianist, and mbira player with a special passion for American concert music of the 20th century. Her doctoral dissertation on George Gershwin's masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, led her to an ongoing investigation of the African-American musicians who were Gershwin's inspirations and contemporaries, including Eva Jessye and Hall Johnson. She is presently writing a book on the life and works of William Dawson (1899–1990), famed director of the Tuskegee Institute Choir. She has presented her scholarship at national meetings of the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music. 

John HansonJohn Hanson (2012)
Professor and chair of the chemistry department, John Hanson joined the faculty of University of Puget Sound in 1990. His teaching and research interests include organic chemistry, computational and bioorganic chemistry, and biochemistry. Cited by students as an enthusiastic and passionate professor, in the past five years Hanson has mentored 11 summer research students, 24 senior thesis research students, and six directed student research projects, with many students going on to present their research findings at national conferences. (And they do a pretty amazing job on each year's American Chemical Society standardized organic chemistry exam each year, too!)

Bill Breitenbach

Bill Breitenbach (2011)

Professor, History

Students praise Bill Breitenbach's organization of courses and class material; love being challenged and engaged in interesting material and texts; and appreciate his accessibility and concern for their understanding, as well as how much they learn as a result of the thorough evaluation of their written work. His students regularly win the university's writing excellence awards. Breitenbach writes about his teaching: “My goal as a teacher continues to be to offer the kinds of courses that I myself would have wanted to take as an undergraduate. These were courses in which the professor was intense and challenging, courses that required me and inspired me to work harder and learn more than I would have done if left to my own devices. . . . I try to conduct classes so that the ratio of ideas to minutes is high.”

Nick KontogeorgopoulosNick Kontogeorgopoulos (2010)

Professor and Director, International Political Economy

Described by colleagues and students as an exceptional teacher, Nick Kontogeorgopoulos is recognized for his passion, enthusiasm, respect for students, and his concern for student understanding. He notes about his commitment to teaching, "I believe that it is my responsibility to instigate in students a lifelong desire to learn more about the world and to acquire the knowledge and values needed to respond to the world's cultural, social, and political diversity." His academic research interest include tourism geography, ecotourism, and community-based development. In the words one student included at the bottom of her course evaluation, "Nick's the best." We concur.

Jeff Matthews

Jeffrey J. Matthews (2009)

Professor, School of Business and Leadership; Director, Business Leadership Program

Jeff Matthews teaches leadership and international courses in the School of Business and Leadership, and also teaches in the Honors Program and history. His reasearch and writing have focused on American foreign policy, military leaderhsip, the Fortune-500 company Corning Inc., and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Professor Matthews earned a B.S. from Northern Arizona University in 1987, an M.A. and M.B.A. from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990 and 1995, respectively, and a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 2000.

Suzanne HollandSuzanne Holland (2008)
Professor of Ethics and Philip M. Phibbs Research Professor, Religion
Suzanne Holland joined the puget Sound faculty in 1997, and has built a national and international reputation as a bioethicist. A lecturer, author, editor, and teacher, her scholarship focuses on the ethics of new genetic technologies, biotechnologies, stem cell research and ethics, and religion, gender, and culture.

Amy RykenAmy Ryken (2007)
Associate Professor, School of Education
Amy Ryken joined the Puget Sound faculty in the Master of Arts in Teaching Program in 2001 with an emphasis on teaching methods for math and science. A collaborative teacher and learner, she is a presenter, panelist, and author of scholarly research concerning environmental education, science education partnerships, and teacher learning.

Cathy Hale

Catherine Hale (2006)
Professor, Psychology
Catherine Hale teaches research methods in psychology, cognitive psychology, cognition and aging, and the capstone seminar for majors. Outside the clasroom, her work with students includes collaborative research on dementia and Alzheimer's disease at American Lake Veterans Hospital.

Hans OstromHans Ostrom (2005)
Professor, African American Studies and English, and James Dolliver National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor

Andy RexAndrew Rex (2004)
Professor, Physics
Director, Honors Program

Paul LoebPaul Loeb (2003)
Professor, Philosophy

Ken RousslangKen Rousslang (2002)

Leon GrunbergLeon Grunberg (2001)
Professor and Chair, Comparative Sociology

Sunil KukrejaSunil Kukreja (2000)
Professor, Comparative Sociology

Nancy BristowNancy Bristow (1999)
Professor, History
Nancy Bristow teaches 20th-century American history, with an emphasis on race, gender, and social change, and has been part of Puget Sound’s faculty since 1990. Initially a student of progressivism and World War I, she continues to pursue her interest in social upheaval and cataclysms in her research on the social and cultural history of the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. She is also a previous recipient (1999) of the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Bristow earned a B.A. from Colorado College in 1980, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from University of California-Berkeley in 1983 and 1989, respectively.

Susan Owen

Susan Owen (1998)
Professor, Communication Studies