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Prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorships awarded to faculty

Friday, September 26, 2014

LAWRENCE — As part of KU’s 2014 Homecoming Weekend, a pair of University of Kansas scientists — one in microbiology and another in pathology — will join a group of 10 KU faculty and four colleagues at the Medical Center who share a special distinction. They have been recognized for a distinguished career in teaching with a prestigious Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship.

Stephen Benedict, professor in molecular biosciences, and James Fishback, professor in pathology & laboratory medicine, will be honored as the two newest faculty to be awarded a Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship at the Annual Celebration of the Chancellors Club, including the annual dinner Friday, Sept. 26, and during a reception at the chancellor’s residence prior to the Homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 27. Benedict and Fishback, along with fellow Chancellors Club honorees, will be recognized on the field during Saturday’s game.

“Professors Benedict and Fishback have each consistently provided an exceptional education both in the classroom and in the laboratory, as well continuing to make active contributions to research in their field,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “It is a pleasure to join with their department chairs and their community of faculty colleagues and students in recognizing such distinguished teaching careers with this honor.”

The Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship is awarded only to full-time teaching faculty who have demonstrated outstanding teaching over a career of at least 10 years at KU and who hold the rank of associate professor or professor. Faculty carrying the title retain the honor for as long as they teach at KU.

Steve Benedict joined KU in 1990 and is a member of the faculty at both the Lawrence campus and as an adjunct at the Medical Center. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Kentucky and his doctorate in microbiology from Vanderbilt University. Benedict is no stranger to teaching honors at KU. He is a past recipient of the W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence, the Del Shankel Teaching Excellence Award, the Weaver Award for Graduate Student Mentoring in Molecular Biosciences, and the J. Michael Young Academic Advisor Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has also been recognized on three occasions as “Favorite Professor” by the graduating class of biology majors.

Susan Egan, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Biosciences, notes that Benedict’s awards are primarily student-nominated awards. She said of Benedict, “Steve is everything a professor should strive to be. Overall, I cannot think of a more deserving colleague for the Chancellors Club Teaching Professorship. As the sole remaining faculty member in immunology, Steve teaches the five undergraduate and graduate level courses and is universally held in high esteem by his students. At the same time, his research on T cells continues to contribute to a number of new discoveries.”

Benedict’s research focuses on T cells, which originate as “immature” cells without much function, but then respond to their environment and differentiate into one of several “mature” T cell types. His team’s findings working toward a potential breakthrough therapy for a host of autoimmune diseases were published in the journal Clinical Immunology and selected by that journal as a highlighted article. The research also was selected for recognition in Global Medical Discovery.

Dr. James Fishback has been a member of the KU Medical Center faculty since 1987, but his time on the Kansas City campus extends to eight years earlier. Fishback earned his bachelor’s degree at Southwestern College in Winfield, a master’s degree at Kansas State University and his medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1983. He also completed his residency at KU. Like Benedict, his 27-year teaching career has been recognized by students and peers multiple times. He is a two-time recipient of the W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence and recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Classroom Teacher and the Ruth Bohan Distinguished Teaching Professorship. In the annual Student Voice teaching awards, Fishback has been recognized an astounding 31 times.

Dr. Lowell Tilzer, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, believes Fishback likely has more teaching awards than any other current faculty member, which he says is appropriate for one of the most tireless teachers Tilzer has even known.

“He gives unselfishly of his time, energy and personal knowledge. His philosophy is to push students hard to learn as much as possible, following the John Stuart Mills platitude, 'The student who is never required to do more than he can do, will never do what he can.’ Everyone knows him; everyone loves him. He is a teacher not only to medical students and residents, but to physicians around the state.”

Fishback retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2008 with the rank of colonel. In 2003-04, he served on active duty as a flight surgeon in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is known for mixing his detailed knowledge of pathology with his military experiences in class. He has also been a pioneer at KU Medical Center in the use of technology in medical student teaching. His current project involves digitizing histology slides so medical students can easily bring up microscopic images and manipulate the view. The technology expands the ability of his fellow pathologists to work and teach outside of the medical center.

The professorships are funded through KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.


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