New Award Honors Three WSU Professors for Excellence

OGDEN, Utah – The Weber State University Board of Trustees has approved the first group of Presidential Distinguished Professors at the university.

Microbiology professor Craig Oberg, history professor Gene Sessions and zoology professor Sam Zeveloff are the first faculty members honored as part of WSU’s Presidential Distinguished Professors program. The trio will formally receive their awards at WSU’s spring commencement exercises.

Each will receive a cash prize of $16,000, payable over four years, which may be used to further professional academic goals. Honorees also will retain the Presidential Distinguished Professor title throughout their tenure with the university. Upon retirement from WSU, “Emeritus” will be added to the end of the title.

Funding for the annual recognition program was made possible by a generous gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The program was established as a way to recognize outstanding WSU faculty members who demonstrate the highest quality of teaching, scholarship, research and community service.

“This extraordinary act of philanthropy is particularly special because it aims to recognize and celebrate our faculty’s incredible dedication to teaching and education,” said President Ann Millner.

“I believe this program will become an important tradition for WSU,” said Provost Michael Vaughan. “We are very grateful to this donor for recognizing the important role our faculty play in the lives of our students and the vitality of the campus.”

Faculty members are nominated by current or past WSU colleagues, administrators and/or students. Nominees are screened and evaluated by a selected group of senior faculty and academic administrators appointed by the provost. The finalists are recommended by the president of the university to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Oberg started at WSU in 1983 and has served as chair of the Department of Microbiology for 15 years. He is currently the Endowed Scholar for the College of Science. Oberg maintains an active research program, frequently collaborating with junior faculty and former students in graduate school, in addition to mentoring WSU undergraduate research students. He has authored more than 80 publications, including a book co-edited with Sessions on science and Mormonism. Away from campus, Oberg serves on the board of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, including a three-year term as president of that organization. He also has served two terms as president of the Intermountain Branch of the American Society of Microbiology and is the co-holder of several patents involving food production. Oberg is the only person to receive both the John S. Hinckley and H. Aldous Dixon awards from WSU.

When Sessions joined the WSU faculty in 1975, it was a homecoming of sorts, having attended Weber State as a student in the 1960s. A lifelong resident of Ogden, Sessions has taught history at WSU for more than three decades and has served as chair of the Department of History since 2002. Widely respected for his knowledge of Utah and Mormon history, Sessions is the author of seven books and numerous articles that have been published in such journals as “Journal of American Folklore,” “Interamerican Review” and “Utah Historical Quarterly.” His colleagues have elected Sessions chair of the WSU Faculty Senate three times. In the classroom, Sessions’ enthusiasm for history brings the past to life for students and his commitment to teaching and mentoring has led to numerous honors, including the Crystal Crest Master Teacher Award in 1987 and the John S. Hinckley Award in 1991.

ZeveloffA native New Yorker, Zeveloff came to WSU’s Department of Zoology in 1984, where he serves as a professor and chair of the department. In addition to teaching courses on mammalogy, conservation biology, and evolution, Zeveloff conducts research in the areas of mammalian ecology and conservation. His work has been published in such leading journals as “Evolution,” “The American Naturalist,” and “Nature.” He is also the author of two natural history books: “Mammals of the Intermountain West” (University of Utah Press 1988) and “Raccoons, a Natural History” (Smithsonian Institution Press 2002).  Zeveloff has explored interdisciplinary approaches to wilderness management, and served as an editor for two books on the subject.  Zeveloff has been the recipient of the John S. Hinckley Award, the Spencer Seager Teaching Award, and was a co-recipient of the Exemplary Collaboration Award for initiating the university’s annual Holocaust commemoration.

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Michael Vaughan, provost

(801) 626-6006 ·

John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
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Presidential Distinguished Professors

Craig Oberg
Gene Sessions
Sam Zeveloff

Eric Amsel
Yasmen Simonian
Michael Wutz

Bradley W. Carroll
Brian Davis

Jim Christian
Brenda Marsteller Kowalewski
Susan Matt
Adolph Yonkee

John Cavitt
Lauren Fowler
Ed Walker