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Fans cheered for more than three pointers, dunks and steals last night as UK honored this year’s Great Teachers on the court at Rupp Arena. 

On Tuesday evening, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association presented its 2016 Great Teacher Awards to six recipients at a recognition dinner. The award-winners were then recognized on the court of Rupp Arena during the Kentucky vs. Georgia men’s basketball game.

The recipients are:


The Great Teacher Award, started in 1961, is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selections. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and monetary reward.

Here is a compilation of what the student nominators had to say about this year's Great Teachers:

The fact that Matthew Dawson cares about students inside and outside of the classroom greatly impacted students in the College of Medicine.  

“Dr. Dawson is willing to act as a mentor both within medical education and as a sounding board for students who are seeking advice,” said Melissa Murray, a medical student in her second year.

Shannon Newberry, a UK senior in the College of Design, spoke of Wallis Miller’s ability to connect with her students. 

"She never fails to brighten my day as well as make me feel important and full of potential,” Newberry said. "Her gift as an instructor (is that) she knows how to understand students and re-kindle their love and confidence for learning.”

An undergraduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences felt compelled to nominate Gurney Norman because of his expertise on all things Appalachia and the way he communicates that knowledge to his students. 

"I don’t know anyone more knowledgeable about Appalachian culture, nor do I know anyone more acquainted with Appalachian writing and writers," UK senior Nicole Solakiewicz said. "It is what truly sets him apart from the rest — his passion and love for what he does, and the way he shares it with students.”

Students in the College of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics appreciate how Bret Spear puts students first. 

"To say Dr. Spear is ‘pro-student’ would be an understatement," said Katie McKenna, a UK graduate student. "I am not sure I can think of another professor who goes to the lengths he does to provide an education and to help others."

A group of students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment nominated Tammy Stephenson partly because of her positive attitude.

"Dr. Stephenson finds that one special strength in every student and does her very best to make sure that student is able to shine with whatever strength that may be,” the students said. 

The enthusiasm Amy Murrell-Taylor brings into the classroom each and every day is not lost on Ryan Mosley, who is currently a first-year law student.

"From the moment she walks into the classroom, she is bright-eyed and smiling," Mosley said. "She conveys to the class, just with her body language that ‘I’m excited to be here’ and ‘Man I love my job!’"

This year’s recipients first learned they were chosen for the awards in a series of top-secret surprises in late December. Watch the video above to see firsthand the reactions of each winner as they realized the balloons were for them! You’ll also hear why teaching at UK is so rewarding for this group of professors. 

The UK Alumni Association is a membership-supported organization committed to fostering lifelong engagement among alumni, friends, the association and the university.

For more information about the UK Alumni Association or to become a member, visit or call 800-269-2586. 

Author: Amy Jones-Timoney and Kody Kiser
Terms: DHN