Master Teacher Award - Spring 2004
The Master Teacher Award emphasizes the importance of teaching at the University of Saskatchewan and honours faculty who excel in teaching. The Selection Committee has named Professor John Thompson, Department of Sociology, St. Thomas More College, to be the recipient of this prestigious award at this Convocation.
Professor Thompson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy at Spring Hill College, Alabama, his Master of Arts in Theology at the University of Santa Clara, California, his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. John was hired by St. Thomas More College in 1975, becoming Professor in 1993 and serving as St. Thomas More's President from 1990-2000.
Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of his discipline and has demonstrated excellence in research, publishing regularly in the leading journals and presenting the results of his research at learned conferences. All our Master Teachers are expected to be researchers of distinction. But when one looks at the evidence relating to John's teaching, as shown in student evaluations, colleagues' comments, and his teaching portfolio, the pages come alight, shining with an undiminished flame over all his years at the University of Saskatchewan. When he taught his first university class as a young man, John remembers, "My stomach was churning. I wondered whether I should even be standing here. But after ten minutes in front of that class, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life." His dedication, expertise, and passion for teaching, if anything, have intensified.
John Thompson cannot be summed up in a couple of hundred words, and he would be the first to say that none of us can be thus reduced, but one theme persists. John not only teaches sociology, his teaching changes lives. A former undergraduate is eloquent: "Dr. Thompson taught me how to use my brain. He also spent laborious hours teaching all of his students how to write. In other classes, I was always very aware that I was only a farmer's wife with not much of a future. Dr. Thompson showed me that I could use my sociological imagination plus stay in my home community and work with rural people. I will work all of my life to emulate with my social work clients the teaching skill of Dr. Thompson." A graduate student makes a typical statement: "John Thompson has been the single most important educator in my life - by far. I picked up his enthusiasm for learning and it has made me a more confident and a better person." Another states that "the best evidence of the quality of a professor's teaching is found in the lives of his students. The skills and confidence I developed as a graduate student under John's supervision resulted in the incredible opportunities I have had since graduating. I am now a faculty member at the University of Lethbridge because of the academic skills I developed under John's leadership."
Most of his students remember "A Live Sociologist at Work - Writing an Essay in Class." Using this technique, John, with the students, writes an essay from scratch on the blackboard, talking about and showing them the painstaking processes academics go through when they write. It is a powerful and precarious teaching tool.
Professor Thompson has developed, in the words of STM President George Smith, "a virtual obsession for the welfare of students... How do one's decisions impact the life and learning of our students?" John has shown himself to be a superb teacher and an excellent emissary of his discipline, touching everyone he encounters with his passion for sociology and his absolute ardour for the craft and art of teaching. Eminent Chancellor, I am very pleased to present the Master Teacher Award to Professor John Thompson. With the dedication he has displayed and the legacy he is building, the University of Saskatchewan enjoys great good fortune having such a fine teacher on its staff. He is most deserving of this honour.