1994 Pinanski Prize citation

Presentation of Awards

Charles Fisk

All of our faculty members strive to instill in their students a passion for learning.  Many of them also strive to help students learn about their creative passions and channel them in new and exciting ways.  Charles Fisk, winner of this year’s Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching, has consistently been such a resource both for his students in music theory and piano, as well as for audiences and critics alike.  The critics say that Professor Fisk “gives his audience something to take home and think about.” Another one wrote, “Mr. Fisk has an unusually intelligent musical mind…and an uncommon ability to think and feel at the same time.”

His students reach a remarkably similar conclusion. 

“He has redefined the…title ‘professor’ into a more personal, encompassing one.  I know that he is one of the few teachers in my life that I will not forget with the subject matter, “ one writes.  Guiding his students to a more intellectual yet, at the same time, more intensely personal relationship with their music, is his rare and special talent.  “He has never failed to impress upon me,” this student goes on to say, “that music is about truly caring about how the notes you produce sound.  I think I’ve always distanced myself from my music.  It is not enough to understand how certain wavelengths of sound blend together, or to “feel” something inside of you.  I’ve learned that it is the expression of it that it most important – to know how you, yourself, want it to sound, and to know how to play so you can express that.”

Sally Engle Merry

What stands out in students’ comments about Sally Engle Merry is the joy and wholeness she communicates through her teaching, mingled with sadness that they could not have spent more years, or studied longer with her.  “I am currently taking my fourth and unfortunately final course with her, “ one student wrote.  “Professor Merry is a thought-provoker,” she said.  “You cannot go through a class with her without constantly re-evaluating and re-assessing yourself and what you are learning.”

Discussions that are begun in Sally Merry’s classes, they say, never end when class is over. “Students leave her classes enthusiastic about the material and discussions,” said another.  “Countless times after class, friends and I would find ourselves discussing our seminar and realizing that we had all gleaned a slightly different meaning from the day’s discussion because we had all been encouraged to asses the material from our own perspectives.”

While the study of mediation and conflict resolution is  the external hallmark of her academic career, Sally Merry has been a powerful mediator in the lives of her students as well.  One wrote of how she helped focus the theme of a paper.  “As I answered her questions, she discussed my answers with me until I was able to articulate on my own a direction and theses for the paper.  I left her office truly feeling that she had guided me but that I had drawn my own conclusions.”

“I will leave Wellesley at the end of May having had the privilege of receiving instructions from one of the finest facilitators and human beings I have come to know,” another student wrote.  While still another, in a true testimony to the connectedness with community that Sally Merry models, observed “I have truly profited from her active role in my Wellesley life, proving the Professor Merry’s own years at Wellesley, as a student in the 1960’s were the beginning of an education that is evolving, and not close to its end.”

“I have taken every course she has offered,” another wrote, “ and only wish there were more to take.  From her teaching and guidance, I will leave Wellesley with an open mind…and the enhanced ability to participate in the diverse world around me.”

Patrick Morton

For some of us, there would appear to be a vast gap between Diophantine (DYE-A-FAN-TEEN) equations and birthday cakes.  But they are one and the same to Patrick Morton, Associate Professor of Mathematics and one of this year’s winners for the Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching.  “All of his students appreciate the friend that he is to us as well as the educator,” one student wrote.  “Just last week, a whole class got together and baked a cake for his birthday."  "Professor Morton," she went on to say, “does not merely lecture to his students…he guides them towards their own observation and discovery.”

Another student said that while she had originally taken his Math 100 course just to “fulfill one of those ‘pesky requirements,’” she has, because of his teaching, “developed an interest for Calculus due to [his] ability to weave mathematical ideas and formulas into the fabric of everyday life – no small feat!”  After taking Math 100, she now finds herself, as she says, “veering off onto a path that is leading me toward a science degree.”

Others have described Patrick Morton as “conspicuously effective,” or “incredibly supportive.”  He “teaches so well," they say, “that students keep taking his classes simply because he teaches them.”

All his students agree that his style of teaching fosters participation and cooperation by the entire class.  “When problems and proofs were handed back, he would ask if anyone had any  questions on the parts they got wrong.   A student would say ‘yes, could someone do #4?” And another student would go up to the board and show what she had done to get the problem right.  From the standpoint of theories on learning,” this student wrote, “it is not surprising that this worked so well, as it is well known that the more ways you learn something, the better you will learn it.”