Ken Westhues, recipient of the Distinguished Teacher Award, 1985


Ken Westhues has taught at Waterloo for the last ten years. He holds the rank of professor in the Department of Sociology. Professor Westhues is an established scholar, well known for his research on catholic education in Canada and the United States, as well as on mission projects and church-state relations in Latin America. Professor Westhues has served the university as a chairman of the Department of Sociology from 1975 to 1978. He currently teaches both in that department and at St. Jerome's College. Ken Westhues was nominated and selected for the Distinguished Teacher Award in recognition of excellent teaching at many levels, ranging from advanced graduate seminars to introductory sociology in first year. His courses are demanding and difficult at all levels, but his students seem to rise to the intellectual challenge, meet it, and grow in the process. This theme runs through most of the letters supporting the nomination. For example, one undergraduate writes this about a second-year course taught by Ken: “Never before have I put so much concentrated effort into my school work, and never before have I gained so much from my efforts.” A candidate for the PhD says almost the same thing: “A course with professor Westhues is never easy, but it is one of the most creative, exciting experiences available to graduate students in the Department of Sociology.” Ken Westhues has made an important contribution to his discipline by writing an introductory text, entitled The First Sociology. That book reflects the same approach to teaching as do his courses. The chairman of sociology puts it this way: “Perhaps the most commendable feature of the text is his presumption of intellectual maturity of students, a maturity which can be brought out only when challenged.” Ken Westhues has impressed his students in other important ways. He is considered to be a superb communicator, a deep and clear thinker who engages students in discussion without intimidating them. His students feel that he cares about their personal development, understands their needs, and is ready to help when help is required. It almost appears that the criteria for the Distinguished Teacher Award might have been written as a description of Ken Westhues.