Nation’s largest award for top teaching brings UT geosciences prof to Baylor
Every two years, Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching brings one of the nation’s best professors not already here at Baylor to Waco for a semester, allowing BU students to benefit from his or her excellence in the classroom. First awarded in 1991, the honor remains our country’s largest national award presented by a college or university for exceptional teaching, and carries with it an exceptional monetary reward for both the professor and his or her school.
The 2024 Cherry Award recipient is Dr. Jay Banner, the Bullard Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Since joining the UT faculty in 1990, Banner has been repeatedly honored for his teaching, including the Knebel Distinguished Teaching Award (1996, 2006 & 2007), the Jackson School of Geosciences’ Outstanding Educator Award (2010), the Texas Exes Teaching Award (2012), the University of Texas System Regents Outstanding Teaching Award (2013), and the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2016-17).
“When I think of great teachers I’ve known, they share their excitement of discovery about how the world works,” says Banner. “If a teacher can take a complex concept, whether it’s in science, engineering or the humanities, and help students understand it and be excited about having learned it, that’s what it’s all about.”
Banner’s teaching interests are in sustainability, environmental science, geochemistry and environmental justice. In research, his interests center on climate and hydrologic processes, how they are preserved in the geologic record, and how human activities affect the sustainability of water resources.
As the Cherry Award recipient, Banner will spend a semester at Baylor teaching and working with BU students. He is expected to teach in residence during the 2025 spring semester. The honor includes a $250,000 award for Banner, plus an additional $25,000 for his home department — all thanks to a generous endowed gift many years ago from Robert Foster Cherry (AB ’29).
“Dr. Jay Banner is an academic innovator whose teaching and educational programs have impacted thousands of students,” says Dr. Kevin Dougherty, a longtime Baylor sociology professor and Cherry Award committee chair. “He is the type of legendary teacher for whom the Cherry Award was created.”
Sic ’em, Dr. Banner!