Nursing and Psychiatry Prof. Stephen Strobbe’s voice quavered with emotion as he stood before a nearly full Rackham Auditorium to deliver a lecture during his reception of the Golden Apple award on Tuesday evening.
The Golden Apple award — which is sponsored by the University of Michigan Hillel and more than 30 other campus organizations and departments — is the only student-nominated award for student teaching.
“The Golden Apple Award honors those teachers who consistently treat every lecture as if it were his or her last chance to impart knowledge on their students,” said Business junior Jake Berman, the Golden Apple Committee co-chair.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the award at the University.
The Golden Apple Award Committee said they received a record of more than 750 nominations this year, of which 75 were submitted for Strobbe.
Recipients of the award are invited to present a lecture on topics of their choice as if it were their last opportunity to do so. Strobbe was learned of his selection for the Golden Apple award in February.
In his lecture, titled “Lessons from an Imperfect Life: A Premature Last Lecture,” Strobbe discussed how students’ anonymous nomination comments were made available to him upon his selection.
Strobbe said his purpose for talking about the comments was twofold. First, he said, he wanted faculty, staff and administrators to hear what students said they valued in a teacher. Second, he wanted students to reflect upon their comments and their collective importance.
“Remember that if these qualities were important to you as students, they’re undoubtedly important to others, including the patients who you will treat,” he said.
Stobbe said many of the comments addressed his approach to the difficult and challenging themes dealt with in his class, Mental Health and Illness Across the Lifespan.
“My stated overarching goal is … to help students develop the skills and knowledge to talk to anyone about anything, generally during one of the most difficult and vulnerable periods of their lives,” he said.
Strobbe mentioned his own experience recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, and said he does not withhold that information from his students.
“I don’t share that information as something to draw attention to myself,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to humanize this solution to challenge preconceived notions of and convey a sense of home.”
Strobbe’s former students said his honesty distinguishes him as an influential professor.
“His genuineness made the whole semester easier for other people, for us as students, for us to be open and genuine about mental illness or all of these (things) that are pretty controversial or stigmatized … in normal conversation,” Nursing senior Allison Kosaian said.
Nursing senior Maggie Craft expressed similar sentiments about Strobbe’s teaching style.
“This kind of transparency and being so emotionally open is something we saw the entire semester,” Craft said. “The genuineness is completely who he is.”