University Names Top Research, Teaching and Engagement Award Recipients

University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken today announced the 2009 winners of the university’s most prestigious awards for research, teaching and engagement.

“The University-wide awards recognize faculty whose research, teaching, creative activity and engagement with Nebraskans have made an impact on students, the University and the state,” Milliken said. “The strength and reputation of any university depends on the quality of the faculty, and we have some of the best in the country on our four campuses.”

Awards will be presented at a luncheon on April 29 in Lincoln.


Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award (ORCA): recognizes individual faculty members for research and creative activity of international or national significance.
  • Dr. Stephen I. Rennard, Larson Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Michael James, Chair and Ardis James Professor of Textiles, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Dr. Rennard is widely recognized as a leader in the study of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. His groundbreaking research in the progression of lung disease has led to a better understanding of the disease and the development and testing of many new therapies. In 2006, he was selected as the first UNMC Scientist Laureate, the highest award given to a UNMC scientist, in recognition of his research in COPD, smoking cessation and lung tissue repair and remodeling.

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Prof. James is one of the world's leading quilt artists and has pioneered ways to incorporate advanced digital technology into his medium. His works have been acquired by and shown in a wide range of museums and galleries, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Sheldon Museum of Art, Fuller Craft Museum, and many others. He is a Fellow of the American Craft Council and was recognized with the Governor’s Arts Award as Nebraska’s 2008 Visual Artist of the Year. In addition to blending conceptualization, aesthetics and technology to create highly original works of art, James is a respected instructor and mentor and serves as the chair of UNL's Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design.

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Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award (OTICA): recognizes individual faculty members for sustained records of excellence in teaching.

  • Dr. Donald Lee, Professor, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Dr. Calvin P. Garbin, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dr. Lee is a leader in the instruction of plant biology, genetics and biotechnology to undergraduate students at UNL, where he is also an outstanding student advisor, a leader in faculty teaching improvement and a mentor to graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. As a national leader in distance education and web-based instruction, his students also include agronomists, high school teachers, private industry professionals and plant science instructors. Dr. Lee has been nationally recognized for his teaching by the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America. Dr. Lee joined the UNL faculty in 1989.

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Dr. Garbin will be honored for his teaching of research methods, data analysis and psychometrics and for his impact on the teaching activities of others in the Psychology Department. He revolutionized and improved the undergraduate and graduate curricula in research and quantitative methods. His outstanding classroom instruction is reflected by teaching awards that include the ASUN Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in 2002 and his selection in 2007 as the first recipient of the Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow Award in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Garbin has also had a significant impact on student learning outside the classroom, having supervised over 400 undergraduate research presentations and served on more than 100 dissertation committees. His colleagues praised him for putting teaching first, and for contributing to the teaching excellence of others.

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The University’s newest award honors excellence in the University’s third mission – outreach and engagement. The Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Award (IDEA) recognizes NU faculty who have a direct impact on the economic, cultural and educational life of the state.
  • Dr. Donald Weeks, Maxcy Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Dr. Weeks is nationally recognized for his pioneering work in plant biochemistry and biotechnology, including major breakthroughs in the engineering of herbicide-resistant crops and a new initiative in emerging biofuels technology. This work has significant impact on the productivity and economic strength of agriculture in Nebraska, the U.S. and potentially throughout the world, and has led to beneficial partnerships with the private sector. His research has been widely published in distinguished scientific journals, and has led to a number of patents. Dr. Weeks joined the faculty in 1989 as the Director of the Center for Biotechnology, and is credited with strengthening the university’s position for competitive research funding. He chaired the Department of Biochemistry from 2001-2006, and has also been recognized for teaching excellence and for his dedication to undergraduate recruitment efforts.

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Award recipients are selected by a committee of outstanding peers. The ORCA originated in 1978, the OTICA in 1992 and the IDEA in 2006.

For additional information contact:
Sharon Stephan
(402) 472-7554
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