Frederick A. Cooper— 1996 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award
Frederick A. Cooper of the University of Minnesota is the 1996 recipient of the Archaeological Institute of America's Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award. It is fitting that Professor Cooper be the first recipient of this new award. He has been teaching undergraduate students for over 33 years at a major research university, a duty he could have easily turned over to younger colleagues. He teaches a wide range of subjects, from general introductory courses in art history to specialized seminars in classical archaeology, to a wide range of students from many disciplines. Deeply committed to the teaching of archaeology, he continues to bring new methods, disciplines, and technologies into both the classroom and the field. His letters of support and syllabi are a testament to his intellectual energy, tireless enthusiasm, and visionary pedagogical skills.
Professor Cooper's contributions to undergraduate education have been recognized by his University with three teaching awards–the maximum number one professor can receive. They span the length of his career–University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Teaching Awards were presented in 1972/1973 and 1989/1990 and the Morse Minnesota Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education was awarded in 1991. In addition to using his award money to finance undergraduate research projects, he has helped students raise their own funds to pursue their ideas. According to his departmental chair, Fred Cooper and his students have set a record in the University's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program for receiving the most grants and awards for their research initiatives.
One of his most enduring achievements as a teacher has been in the field. Fred Cooper has trained hundreds of students on his field projects in Greece: the Bassai Project, which, beginning in the late 1960s, has provided apprenticeships in architecture for students at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and for numerous aspiring architects from Europe and the United States: the three-year-long Nemea Reconstruction Project; his restudy of the palace and environs at Pylas; his expeditions in the Manito find ancient quarries; his environmental surveys using satellite spectral data and GIS; and his study of Greek vernacular architecture. No matter what their primary academic interest, Fred Cooper taught his students the fundamentals of hands-on archaeological fieldwork, including both traditional methods and new technologies.
Participants in his projects stress the unique and heady brew of intellectual and cultural experience that Fred Cooper provides. One writes: "He teaches by the example of his life, and it is his unhesitating and close collaboration with the Belgians and the Germans and the Greeks, with geologists and architects and botanists, that provides his students rich lessons in the value of interdisciplinary effort and internationalism for the accomplishment of intellectual goals that begin to free them–many for the first time–from the strictures of academic and cultural provincialism. Working with Fred in the field is more than archaeological training; it is a life class, and there are few students who come away from one of his projects unchanged.... As much as any other experience in my adult life, that of living and working with Fred Cooper has determined my view of how the study of antiquity should be approached and how life should be lived, and there are dozens of others out there who would say the same."
Fred Cooper has been a constant and vital presence in the field for over 30 years. He has unselfishly and unceasingly shared his journey of discovery. As his students write, it is impossible to separate Fred the field archaeologist and scholar from Fred the teacher: the study of antiquity is his life, his all-consuming passion, and he teaches most profoundly through the example of his life. He has personally and directly touched students of all sorts and from several nations. Many have been inspired to go on to higher degrees in ancient studies (the list is impressive, and their loyalty to Fred steadfast) or have made antiquity one focus of their chosen field, while others have gone on to something entirely different. All left Greece and Fred's projects with a sense that they had experienced something remarkable.
For his outstanding and innovative pedagogy and for his deep love of archaeology, the Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to present its first Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award to Frederick A. Cooper of the University of Minnesota.