Many teachers have inspired history professor Mark Mazower in his lifetime, from the one who gave him a silver star when he was eight to the one who taught him how to read closely by scanning texts for phallic images.
Now, Mazower, the Ira D. Wallach Professor of World Order Studies and a professor of history, is himself being recognized as an inspiration, as he and civil engineering professor George Deodatis were the recipients of the 63rd annual Great Teacher Awards in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda on Thursday.
“We’re honoring people extraordinarily talented in their fields, but they have truly moved students, and that’s special,” President of the Society of Columbia Graduates Andrew Gaspar, SEAS ’69, said.
Anna Kazanjian Longobardo, chair of the membership committee, called Mazower “one of the most learned and popular teachers” at the University and listed many of his accomplishments, including the Duff Cooper Prize—an annual award for non-fiction writing—for his book “Salonica, City of Ghosts.”
“This is a very old award. I can think of half a dozen people in my department who I consider to be much more deserving than me, but I’m honored,” Mazower said.
Longobardo said that Deodatis “was characterized as a teacher who could make complex lectures enjoyable.” Deodatis, the Santiago and Robertina Calatrava Family Professor of Civil Engineering, has received numerous honors in engineering, including the Engineering Council’s Excellence in Teaching Award at Princeton and the American Society of Civil Engineers Walter Huber Research Prize.
Deodatis emphasized the importance of constantly improving, especially when teaching at the undergraduate level.
“Students are expecting a lot and it’s not easy,” he told the audience. “There’s a lot of expectations. You always have to improve. Every year, I’m trying to improve and I’m always learning from the students.”
School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Feniosky Peña-Mora insisted that teaching was not something everyone can do, and that honoring those who do the job so well is key. One of the best parts of teaching, he said, is when students “get the aha moment.”
Alumni in attendance stressed the importance of recognizing the teachers who play an influential role in shaping students’ college experiences.
“We never recognize people who need to be recognized enough,” Wayne Turner, CC ’77, said. “It wasn’t until law school that I saw the values in these professors. I was too busy having a good time.”