Former Provost Receives UT’s Largest Undergrad Teaching Award

Friar Award 2013 Sheldon Ekland-Olson

A group of UT students, faculty, and administrators huddled outside a small seminar room in the new College of Liberal Arts building. One person held orange and white balloons; another, a giant, oversized check. As someone silently gave the go-ahead, a student hoisting a boombox on his shoulder hit the play button, and “The Eyes of Texas” blared as the group barged through the door.

Sociology professor and former provost Sheldon Ekland-Olson got the shock of a lifetime this morning when members of the Longhorn community surprised him with the 2013 Friar Society Centennial Teaching Fellowship, UT’s largest undergraduate faculty award. Ekland-Olson—who also serves as the director of the School of Human Ecology and is a former director of the Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation—received a $25,000 check in recognition of his excellence in teaching and his contributions to UT.

The Centennial Teaching Fellowship has been given by the Friar Society, one of UT’s oldest honor societies, for 27 years. With an endowment of more than $500,000, the society gives one award of $25,000 annually to a student-nominated undergraduate professor. Former recipients include faculty all-stars like James Vick, Brent Iverson, and Chris Kirk.

“He’s a legend on campus,” fellowship c0-chair Billy Calve says of Ekland-Olson. “This is a great way for us to honor his many years of service to the University.”

Forty-two years of service, to be exact; Ekland-Olson joined the UT faculty in 1971. He served as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1993-98, and as executive vice president and provost from 1998-2006. His Life and Death Decisions sociology course was also once listed among the 10 hottest courses in the nation.

Red-faced and speechless, Ekland-Olson was visibly dumbfounded as he was presented the award.

“This is so cool. I feel like a little kid,” he said to the group. “I’ve got to go call my wife!”

Photo by Marsha Miller.



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