John Greenhouse, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1986

Earth Sciences

John Greenhouse is associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences, where he has been teaching for fourteen years. John now also serves as chairman of the department. Professor Greenhouse is a geophysicist, and until this year was the only geophysicist in earth sciences. Today we honour him for the very high quality of his teaching in geophysics, but we must also recognize the great quantity of his work which was required to develop the excellent program in which he teaches. When the selection committee studied the nomination of John Greenhouse for the Distinguished Teacher Award, it saw a file bulging with letters from current undergraduate and graduate students, from alumni, and from faculty colleagues. The teacher described in those letters is a respected scientist, applauded for his skills in organizing, preparing, and presenting even the most difficult material in his courses. Alumni described how they continued to use the notes from his courses in their professional practice. Students, alumni, and colleagues alike commented on the simple, but entirely memorable, models which he had developed as teaching aids to illustrate such concepts as continental drift. It is evident that the intellectual content of his teaching reflects the same deep understanding of his subject which has led him to develop important research on the geophysics of the near-surface environment and its implications for the disposal of waste materials. There is much praise in the letters for John's readiness to spend a great deal of time on field work, his ready availability to help with problems, his effective advising when he served as undergraduate officer, his sense of humour and his boundless energy. More importantly, there are some very thoughtful comments about the quality of his dealings with students and the influence he has on them. One student puts it in these words: “Dr. Greenhouse reinforced what I view as the basic teaching of a university education, namely, the skill of learning how to learn.” Another student writes: “You can never overestimate the importance to students of a professor who genuinely cares for their welfare.” The group of 17 students, faculty colleagues and alumni who constituted themselves as a nominating committee for John Greenhouse identified his unique distinction as a teacher in these words, “other teachers are personable, use models skillfully, use hands-on techniques, run popular field excursions, have organized programs which satisfy a need, and have even been popular and respected Undergraduate Officers, but in the end his special talent devolves upon his uncondescending respect for students as individuals.”