Patrick M. Thomas— 1999 Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award

Award Citation:

The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to bestow the 1999 Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching on Professor Patrick Thomas of the University of Evansville. In the words of one of his colleagues, “Pat Thomas, while [he is] not the founder of the program in Archaeology/Art History, [the program] has only succeeded through his extraordinary vision and efforts.”

The key to this success is a tireless devotion to teaching. Even while serving his department as chair, Pat Thomas arrives on campus commonly at 5:30 a.m. to prepare for classes and is still at his post 12 hours later to dine with students or attend meetings of the undergraduate archaeology club. Despite his duties as chair and as advisor to 40 undergraduate majors in archaeology, Dr. Thomas teaches seven or even eight regularly scheduled courses every year, finding time to comment extensively on students’ written work and to be innovative with creative assignments and probing questions designed to challenge his students to master the field. One would expect the weight of such a schedule to be reflected in less than spectacular student evaluations, but that is not the case. Dr. Thomas is always ranked in the top 10% in all categories on student evaluations. The reason for this is clear to one of his colleagues, who writes, “For Pat, education is the goal of everything he does.”

Whether in his regular meetings with the majors to discuss study habits and career options, driving students to weekend excavations, or leading tours of local museums, Pat Thomas’s unstinting devotion to undergraduate education in archaeology is outstanding.

Student recommenders describe him as “caring and sympathetic,” noting that “he encourages independent thought on every subject,” and finally, in the words of one student, that “he is not simply a model for excellence in undergraduate teaching, he is the exemplary model.” Dr. Thomas specializes in archaeology, but it is fitting to acknowledge that his excellence as a teacher extends to other fields. Pat teaches across the curriculum, from ancient languages to the University’s World Cultures Program, where he is “universally regarded,” in the words of a colleague, “as one of the best teachers in the program.” Another colleague notes that Pat’s success as a teacher can be measured against a national scale. In a national teaching evaluation program developed by Kansas State University, Pat ranked in the 99th percentile in the category of Overall Excellence of Instructor.

Pat’s broad range of interests is reflected in his special areas of teaching, which encompass Aegean prehistory, Greek and Roman archaeology, Near Eastern archaeology, Anatolian archaeology, and Classical studies. The Award Committee noted that he has taught 21 different courses in these subjects over the last 10 years, covering the whole field of archaeology from language instruction, to ancient technology, to Greek painted pottery, to archaeological method and theory.

Professor Patrick Thomas has demonstrated in manifold ways his concern for and success in the undergraduate teaching of archaeology. Even in the smallest of gestures, such as e-mailing his students before exams to wish them good luck, Pat Thomas exemplifies all that is best in a teacher. Pat Thomas’s tireless devotion is here gratefully acknowledged as representing the highest standards of the Archaeological Institute of America’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

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