It was business as usual in History Prof. Victor Lieberman’s Arab-Israeli Conflict lecture on Tuesday afternoon until an unfamiliar face asked if he liked apples. Though the question was more than a bit out of place, the answer soon came when a parade of students entered the auditorium carrying flowers, maize and blue balloons and 24 gold-painted apples, to congratulate Lieberman on winning the 2014 Golden Apple Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching.
Lieberman was selected based on nominations from students who felt his commitment to teaching was impactful on their experience at the University. Along with the distinction of being a Golden Apple Award winner, Lieberman will have the opportunity to address students and colleagues at the Golden Apple Award Ceremony on April 2 at Rackham Auditorium at 6 p.m. Dubbed “The Last Lecture,” it is an invitation to deviate from his course material and speak as if it were his last time at the podium.
After being confronted with the outpouring of gratitude, Lieberman appeared surprised and almost speechless.
“I really enjoy teaching students and interacting with students, and it makes it that much more enjoyable that you enjoy it, too,” he said in an interview after the event. “I was really surprised, for sure, but I’m very grateful. It makes a lot of the hard work worthwhile and further stimulates my interest in teaching.”
Though Lieberman teaches a class about the Arab-Israeli conflict, his specialty is Southeast Asian history. Lieberman said he is unsure if he will deliver a lecture regarding his own research or one related to the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Business senior Jake Levey, Golden Apple co-president, said the committee had taken measures throughout the year to increase student awareness of the award. Their efforts resulted in more than 600 nominations, a record high inthe award’s 24-year existence. After reading every nomination, the committee narrowed the pool down to 10 professors before choosing Lieberman.
Many of Lieberman’s nominations were several paragraphs long and recounted qualities such as his ability to “teach a difficult subject to a sometimes difficult audience” and remain unbiased, allowing students to objectively form an opinion regarding the topic for themselves.
LSA senior Amalia Zimmerman, Golden Apple co-chair, is currently in Lieberman’s Arab-Israeli Conflict class, and said she relates to the views expressed in the nominations.
“As a Jew growing up with a lot of knowledge of the Israeli side of things … it was really eye-opening to see things from another unbiased perspective,” Zimmerman said. “People of all backgrounds come together and they’re all passionate to learn because he’s passionate about teaching.”
Levey said while the large number of nominations made it difficult to choose a winner, he is glad students demonstrated a passion for their teachers, and is happy to see the Golden Apple Award becoming a vessel through which to honor them and show what getting a university education is about.