William Kennedy Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

Michigan Technological University’s William Kennedy has spent nearly four decades in a college classroom. Now, in the twilight of his career, he has received the University’s highest teaching honor.

Kennedy, associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, is the recipient of this year’s Michigan Tech Distinguished Teaching Award in the Associate Professor or Professor category.

Kennedy, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD from Wayne State University, first joined the Michigan Tech faculty in 1978. He left in 1980 to work as director of education at Howard Communications, a public relations firm. He went back to teaching in 1986, joining the faculty of GMI Engineering and Management Institute.

In 1996, Kennedy returned to Michigan Tech as director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Faculty Development, a position he held for 15 years. He returned to the classroom full time in 2012, joining the faculty of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences where he teaches Learning and Memory, Cognitive Neuroscience, History and Systems of Psychology and Persuasion and Attitude Change.

Kennedy has received teaching awards from Wayne State and GMI. He was inducted into Michigan Tech’s Academy of Teaching Excellence last year.

Engaging Teaching Style

“His teaching style is superior to any I have experienced,” says a student of Kennedy’s.  A colleague says, “I sat in one of his classes, and he keeps his students engaged and in stitches with his humor.”

Susan Amato-Henderson, chair of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences, calls Kennedy a worthy recipient of the teaching honor.

“Bill Kennedy is a phenomenal educator,” she says. “His classes are the first to fill, and students always rave about him. He uses technology to offer ‘flipped’ classrooms and interacts individually with every student in the class through reflective writing assignments that he requires based upon reading.”

Amato-Henderson says part of Kennedy’s success is based on his personality, but the key is “he gets students to think critically and deeply about the subject matter.”

Kennedy says that as he’s winding up a 37-year college teaching career, it’s “very gratifying to receive an award that is based on my students’ evaluations of my teaching.”

He says he’s been told that his courses are intellectually challenging, but anyone willing to consistently put in the effort is able to succeed.

“As Thomas Edison once observed, ‘genius is 90 percent perspiration and ten percent inspiration,’” Kennedy says. “The classroom is a place where personal transformations occur, and it’s been my pleasure to participate in that process.” 

Kennedy will receive a $2,500 monetary award and a plaque at an awards dinner sponsored by University President Glenn Mroz in the fall.  Tarun Dam, an assistant professor in Michigan Tech’s Department of Chemistry, is the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Teaching Award in the Assistant Professor, Professor of Practice and Lecturer category.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.