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May 1, 2001


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James Hopkins William Babcock Ellen Pryor Joseph Kobylka


DALLAS (SMU) -- Four Southern Methodist University faculty members have been named University Distinguished Teaching Professors and will become the first members of the new SMU Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Each honoree will receive a $10,000 award under the program, which is made possible by a $250,000 gift from Ruth Altshuler, chair of the SMU Board of Trustees. Four professors will be honored with the award each year for five years.

The first University Distinguished Teaching Professors, who will be honored at the SMU Board of Trustees' dinner May 10, are Theology Professor William S. Babcock, History Professor James K. Hopkins, Political Science Professor Joseph F. Kobylka and Law Professor Ellen S. Pryor. They were selected by Ross C Murfin, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs, based upon recommendations of the university's Center for Teaching Excellence.

"I am convinced that SMU has one of the finest faculties in the nation, and I want them to know how much the trustees appreciate all they do for our fine university," Altshuler said.

The honorees will have a two-year appointment to the SMU Academy of Distinguished Teachers. During that time, they will participate in symposia, workshops and other forums that allow them to share their teaching philosophies and experiences with colleagues and students.

"It is important that our constituents fully understand the teaching excellence of our faculty," Murfin said. "Ruth Altshuler has not only shown that she understands faculty teaching achievements, but she has taken the lead in rewarding these accomplishments. Excellence in teaching often goes unseen outside the classroom, and she is helping to bring the impact of great teachers to the attention of others."

Babcock joined the faculty of SMU's Perkins School of Theology in 1967 and received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1971. A professor of church history, he has published numerous journal articles, book chapters and book reviews in that field. He is currently working on a translation of Augustine's City of God. Since 1990 he has been director of SMU's Graduate Program in Religious Studies and a member of the Graduate Studies Council. He served as SMU provost ad interim and vice president for academic affairs in 1995-96.

A strong advocate for and participant in interdisciplinary undergraduate education, Babcock has served on the University College Council, Council of the Humanities and Council on Women's Studies and as a fellow of the Council on General Education. He also served as vice president of the Faculty Senate. He currently heads the search committee for the Nate and Ann Levine Chair of Jewish Studies at SMU.

Hopkins came to SMU in 1974 after receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches courses on modern England and European social and intellectual history in SMU's Dedman College. His most recent book is Into the Heart of the Fire: the British in the Spanish Civil War. He currently serves as director of the SMU-in-Britain program and co-adviser to the President's Scholars program. He founded the SMU-in-Oxford program and co-founded the Inter-Community Experience (ICE) program, in which SMU students in urban issues classes work with inner-city children. He has served as associate dean for general education and president of the Faculty Senate.

Hopkins' numerous awards from SMU include four Outstanding Professor Awards, the Rotunda Teaching Award, Phi Beta Kappa Laurence Perrine Prize for outstanding teaching and scholarship, Godbey Author's Award, Willis M. Tate Award for contributions to student life, "M" Award for outstanding service to SMU and Faculty Volunteer of the Year Award.

Kobylka, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, joined the SMU faculty in 1983. He teaches courses in American politics, constitutional law, judicial politics and American political thought in Dedman College. Author or co-author of three books and more than a dozen articles, he is currently finishing a biography of former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. His research addresses judicial processes and behavior, and the politics and thought of the American founding.

Kobylka is the recipient of three Rotunda Teaching Awards, the Willis M. Tate Award, "M" Award, Golden Mustang Award, Deschner Award, Godbey Author's Award and teaching and service awards given by Mortar Board, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, and the Department of Residence Life and Student Housing. He currently serves as faculty advisor to the SMU Honor Council, Political Science Symposium and Pi Sigma Alpha. Pryor came to the SMU law school in 1987, having received a Juris Doctor degree in 1982 from the University of Texas School of Law, where she served as editor in chief of the Texas Law Review. She teaches in SMU's Dedman School of Law in the areas of torts, insurance, professional responsibility and disability law. She is the co-author of a course book on torts and has published numerous articles.

Pryor practiced law in Dallas for four years before joining the SMU law faculty. During that time, she received the Dallas Bar Association's Pro Bono Award of the Year in 1985 for providing legal services to the poor and the following year received the annual Frank Scurlock Award of the State Bar of Texas for legal services to the poor. In 2000 she was presented the United Methodist Church's Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award given by the church's Division of Higher Education.

The SMU Center for Teaching Excellence, directed by Anthropology Professor Ronald Wetherington, formulated plans for the Academy of Distinguished Teachers last year. After reviewing nominees from across campus by students, faculty and deans, the center's 14 members chose a group of finalists, whose credentials were submitted to Murfin for selection.

"It was not an easy decision," Wetherington said. "As faculty, we don't always realize what outstanding teachers our colleagues are, but the students know very well, of course."