Ceremony honors 'top prof'

By Nate Schiff
The Daily Pennsylvanian
December 7, 1998

Standing in a room packed with faculty, students, alumni and other admirers, Pennsylvania Professor of the Year Al Filreis was all smiles during a celebration of his numerous achievements at the Kelly Writers House Saturday.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selects just one winner from each state for the annual award, which is given, according to the foundation's World Wide Web site, to the professor who demonstrates an "extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching."

Will Madden/The Daily Pennsylvanian

English Professor Al Filreis is congratulated for being named the state's top professor.

Filreis, a professor in Penn's English Department, said yesterday that he was honored that his efforts have received this type of recognition.

"How can he be professor of the year? He only taught one course this year!" jokingly exclaimed Ira Winston, executive director of computing for the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science and a longtime friend of Filreis, who is currently on an academic sabbatical.

Indeed, Filreis' accolades stem not so much from lectures in the classroom, but rather from how he uses technology and creative innovations to go beyond the limitations of a 50-minute class.

The Class of 2002 listserv is an example of a project Filreis has used to foster learning and academic interaction. Thirty incoming freshmen read Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading and discussed the book over a special listserv during the summer, with Filreis helping to moderate the discussion.

"[Filreis] responded to a lot of us individually," College freshman Wendy Shiekman said.

"He made us really excited to come [to Penn]," offered Ariel Horn, another College freshman who participated in the project.

Filreis also worked on starting the Electronic Writing Advising program, a service allowing students to submit a paper to trained advisors and receive comments and critique over e-mail, 24 hours a day.

"He's absolutely instrumental in getting things done," said College senior Myra Lotto, who worked with Filreis on the program.

The Kelly Writers House itself is a project Filreis initiated and has kept up with as faculty director. Currently he and director Kerry Sherin are raising money for the Writers House endowment to help fund future ideas.

"If he comes up with a vision, he's always thinking about how he can make it happen," Sherin said.

Yet Filreis' visions extend beyond the University; or rather, he extends the University beyond the campus. Evelyn Bender, a librarian at North Philadelphia's Edison-Fareira High School, has worked with Filreis on the Penn-Edison Partnership, an initiative that brings University students to the high school to serve as tutors and mentors. Bender, Filreis' friend for 10 years, stressed that Filreis "is so full of ideas and energy."

Echoing this statement, English Professor Robert Lucid said that when Filreis began his three-year term as undergraduate chairperson of the English Department in 1993, "things started blowing all over the place as soon as he came in."

University Trustee Paul Kelly, the benefactor of the Kelly Writers House, said simply, "[There is] one outstanding reason for Al's success: He gets things done."


Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/ceremony.html
Last modified: Tuesday, 08-Dec-1998 08:18:33 EST