Albert Leonard, Jr.— 2006 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America honors Dr. Albert Leonard, Jr. as the recipient of the 2006 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. Dr. Leonard is a Professor in the Department of Classics at the University of Arizona.  His broad experience and academic interests have led to joint appointments in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Department of Anthropology.

Albert Leonard completed his B.A. in Classics at Boston University, where his advisor was Professor Emily Vermeule. He completed his graduate degrees at the University of Chicago, his M.A. in the Department of Classics, and his Ph.D. in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He is a member of numerous professional organizations and has served on the boards of the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, and the Arizona Humanities Council.

Dr. Leonard began his teaching career at the University of Minnesota in 1977. He subsequently moved to the University of Missouri at Columbia, and finally to the University of Arizona, where he has worked since 1985.  

Dr. Leonard has been an evangelist for archaeology during his tenure at Arizona. Although a senior professor, he chose to dedicate himself almost exclusively to teaching introductory classes for undergraduates, including courses on Egyptian, Greek, and Near Eastern Archaeology. The College of Humanities at Arizona recognized him as one of its most gifted instructors in 2004-2005 when he received the College’s Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching award. His dean reports that Dr. Leonard regularly teaches courses enrolling hundreds of students; in some years, his annual enrollments have approached one thousand. Students note eager competition to secure one of the coveted spaces in his courses. His department chair states that, despite their popularity, Professor Leonard’s courses are known for their rigor and high academic standards.

Students in Dr. Leonard’s classes experience riveting lectures that are scholarly, yet presented in a witty and humorous manner. One student said, “I gravitated to the front and center of the auditorium… I was hinged on his every word.” They comment especially on his clarity and willingness to explain difficult subjects, sometimes in unconventional ways: a class on Egyptian archaeology might include an analysis of a depiction of a Hawaiian myth to make a point about archaeological interpretation. A real risk in a large lecture course is an impersonal relationship between students and teacher. Albert Leonard’s students state emphatically that he takes a personal interest in them, frequently encourages them to see him outside of class for help, and makes time available to them.  Perhaps the highest tribute was paid by an international student who noted that many students seemed to skip other classes regularly—but not Professor Leonard’s!

Professor Leonard’s research and scholarly publications are so extensive that no short account can do them justice. Archaeological fieldwork has taken him to Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, and Greece. He is the leading authority on Mycenaean pottery in the Levant and Near East. He is the author or editor of ten books; he has published scores of articles. Albert Leonard is truly the archetype of the teacher-scholar.  The Archaeological Institute of America is delighted to recognize Albert Leonard, Jr. as the 2006 recipient of the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. 

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