For the second year in a row, one of the University’s top English professors took home the prestigious Golden Apple teaching award.

Jessica Boullion
English Prof. Eric Rabkin finds out that he is the winner of the Golden Apple Award in an Angell Hall classroom yesterday. The award is given annually to honor outstanding teachers who “teach every lecture as if it were their last.” (JEREMY CHO/Daily)

Even after 30 years of teaching at the University and receiving other various awards, Prof. Eric Rabkin was shocked to learn that he was selected to win the 16th annual Golden Apple award, which designates professors who “teach every lecture as if it were their last.”

Rabkin had tears in his eyes during his course on science fiction yesterday as he accepted a large bundle of balloons from LSA sophomore Lauren Schiff, a committee member of Students Honoring Outstanding University Teaching, the group that selects the recipient.

On his way back to his office after the lecture, Rabkin took every precaution not to pop the balloons that accompanied the award. He said the balloons would serve as evidence for his wife.

“I have to get these balloons home in one piece so I can prove to Betty that it really happened,” he said.

Rabkin now joins a distinguished list of student-nominated University professors selected for their passionate lecture styles, including two fellow English professors – Ralph Williams in 1992 and John Rubadeau last year.

Students in Rabkin’s class applauded and cheered as he accepted the award.

“He loves what he does, and that’s infectious,” said LSA sophomore Samantha Force, a former Daily Arts writer.

Rabkin said he was surprised to win the award because he thought that as the age gap between himself and his students grew, winning became less of a possibility.

“Of course it’s an enormous honor,” Rabkin said. “It’s the students you teach for, not your colleagues, so it’s an incredible honor. But to be candid, I had gotten to the point of thinking ‘it’s just not going to happen.’ ”

English department chair Sidonie Smith said it is Rabkin’s treatment of his students, both in research and the classroom, which helps to engage them in learning.

“I think that Eric is motivated by a profound respect for students as inquirers and scholars,” she said.

As part of the award, Rabkin will deliver his “ideal last lecture” on April 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Rackham Auditorium. Rabkin plans to keep the topic of the lecture secret until then.

He said that although his first focus when teaching a course is the specific material, he also works to give students universal tools for learning.

“It would be wrong to say that I design my courses so that people will become better at constructing ideas and communicating them, because that’s not the first thing I’m thinking of – but I’m always thinking of that,” he said.

In his courses, Rabkin draws the line between homework and “real work” to engage his students in collaborative projects.

His efforts include a research project on the evolution of literary genres with economics Prof. Carl Simon.

Past Recipients
n 2005: John Rubadeau (English Department)
n 2004: Matt Lassiter (Department of History)
n 2003: Thomas Gest (Medical School)
n 2002: Elliot Soloway (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, School of Information, School of Education)
n 2001: Burton V. Barnes (School of Natural Resources & Environment)
n 2000: Kathleen Nolta (Department of Chemistry)
n 1999: Brenda Gunderson (Statistics Department)
n 1998: Jim Adams (Department of Economics)
n 1997: Eric Mann (Department of Biology)
n 1996: Carol Boyd (School of Nursing, Women’s Studies)

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