The time has come again for members of the Ole Miss community to nominate professors to receive the prestigious Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award.
Faculty, students and alumni who wish to honor a favorite professor can nominate him or her between Feb. 1 and March 1 on myOleMiss. Any assistant, associate or full-time professor is eligible for the award as long as he or she hasn’t won in a previous year.
A committee made of previous recipients, a student representative and an alumni association representative is tasked with looking through the nominations, previous years’ nominations and teacher evaluations to determine the winner.
“If a student wishes to nominate somebody, the more the detail they can give, the more of a feel we can get as a quality of that professor,” said John Czarnetzky, chair of the selection committee and the 2016 recipient of the Elsie M. Hood Award. “Students send the majority of nominations, and their voice is really the primary thing.”
The winner receives $5,000, a personal plaque and his or her name engraved on a permanent plaque to be displayed in the chancellor’s office.
Last year’s winner was John Rimoldi of the School of Pharmacy. Rimoldi is a professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology as well as a research professor for the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Robert Brown, a professor of political science and previous recipient of the award, shared one of the nominations made by an anonymous student about Rimoldi.
“Dr. Rimoldi is one of the best teachers I have ever had,” the student wrote. “It is a very difficult course, but he helps keep you interested.”
Rimoldi said the fact that students take time to nominate faculty members for this award makes it special.
“They take a moment out of their busy lives to spend time and write a note or a few lines or a paragraph of text that constitutes a nomination,” Rimoldi said.
For Rimoldi, one of the most memorable parts of receiving the Elsie M. Hood Award was the phone call he received to notify him of the honor.
Rimoldi said he was in his office when he got an unexpected call from Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Vitter asked him a question about cell receptors because he said he needed some information on it. When Rimoldi asked Vitter if he could be more specific with his question, Vitter said, “I’m really not calling about that,” and informed Rimoldi that he had been selected to receive the Elsie M. Hood Award.
“He set me up,” Rimoldi said. “I think that was a classy way of doing it. Bravo to him for that.”
Rimoldi laughed and said normally people don’t get a call from the chancellor unless something is wrong. Other Hood Award winners shared similar experiences.
Czarnetzky has his own special story about finding out he won. He was in Memphis on a business trip when he looked at his phone to see a missed call and voicemail from Vitter.
“It said, ‘John, this is Chancellor Vitter,’ at which moment I’m like, ‘What have I done? Did I say something? What did I do? I don’t think I’ve done anything,’” Czarnetzky said. “It asked for me to call him back, so I called him back, and he said ‘Oh, hello, John. I’m on the ski slopes (in Colorado).’”
Vitter informed Czarnetzky that he had received the award.
“He was very, very gracious,” Czarnetzky said. “I imagine Chancellor Vitter has a difficult job, but telling someone they’ve been chosen for the Hood Award is probably one of the most pleasurable things he can do.”
Psychology professor and 1996 recipient Kenneth Sufka was notified by a phone call from then-Chancellor Robert Khayat.
“The chancellor had called me, and this was his first year as chancellor,” Sufka said. “I remember this very distinctively because he said, ‘Professor Sufka, this is Robert Khayat.’ Then there was a pause, ‘The chancellor at the university,’ as if I didn’t know who he was. I thought that was really funny. And I said, ‘Yes, I know who you are. … Am I in some sort of trouble?’”
Sufka said Khayat laughed and said, “Why? Should you be?”
Sufka said he was surprised and honored by the call.
“It was a very odd phone call, because in my three and a half years I’ve never had any interactions with the chancellor,” Sufka said. “And why would I? I don’t think that I was really doing anything out there in the forefront. I was sort of just minding my own business. And what a great surprise it was.”
Czarnetzky said he encourages students to nominate a professor because it can impact his or her life from the very moment he or she gets called by the chancellor.