Environmental studies professor, graduate director receive top Alumni Association awards and April 26 luncheon honors

Stephen Gliessman, winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award. (Photo by Jim MacKenzie)
Bob Hastings, winner of the Outstanding Staff Award. (Photo by Jim MacKenzie)
Gary Heit accepts the Alumni Achievement Award at the inaugural Founders Day event in October. Chancellor George Blumenthal is at right; at left is Joan Fitting Scott, president of the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association. (Photo by Terry Way)

An agroecologist and a Graduate Division director have been selected to receive the Alumni Association's highest honors for 2007-08.

Stephen Gliessman, Alfred E. Heller Professor of Agroecology, will receive the Distinguished Teaching Award; Bob Hastings, director of Current Students in the Division of Graduate Studies, is the winner of the Outstanding Staff Award.

Gliessman and Hastings, who are to receive $500 each, will be honored at the All-Alumni Reunion Luncheon, taking place on Saturday, April 26, from noon-1:30 p.m., in the College Nine and College Ten Multipurpose Room. The event is part of Reunion Weekend, where hundreds of alumni and guests will gather to reconnect with friends, classmates, and faculty.

Gliessman teaches a range of courses in environmental studies including the legendary 15-unit "Natural History Field Quarter," which exposes students to ecosystems throughout California. An avid sponsor of internships and senior theses, he launched the Program in Community and Agriculture (PICA) in 2002, supported by a significant grant from the Alfred Heller Foundation. PICA brings students to live in the lower quarry, where they learn firsthand the principles of sustainable agriculture, through classroom learning as well as community gardens. Gliessman's former students describe him as an inspiring, dedicated, and approachable teacher and mentor.

"Whether sponsoring graduate students from Mexico, placing UCSC undergraduates in international internships, or working beside his students to create a campus garden, [Gliessman] always goes the extra mile in providing unique learning experiences that have a lifelong impact," wrote alumna Martha Brown (Kresge College, '81, biology/sociology) in nominating Gliessman for the award.

Gliessman has taught at UCSC since 1980.

Since arriving at the Graduate Division in 1977, Hastings has helped graduate students navigate administrative aspects of everything from fellowships and health insurance to academic regulations. Faculty appreciate his work on the Graduate Council, which establishes policies affecting the campus's 1,500 graduate students; all appreciate him as a font of accurate information, historical knowledge, and sage advice.

"Bob's knowledge, expertise, experience, institutional memory, and advice, on any subject-graduate program, graduate student, graduate policies and procedures, graduate funding, graduate studies-related-is unparalleled," wrote Pam Lawson, manager and assistant to the chair, Department of Literature, in nominating Hastings. Lawson received the Outstanding Staff Award in 1998.

Nominators also praised Hastings' professionalism and grace under fire, calling his manner "unflappable," his patience "legendary," and his knowledge "encyclopedic."

The Alumni Achievement Award, previously given at the annual Alumni Association luncheon, was awarded to neurosurgeon Gary Heit last year at the inaugural Founders Day event, held in October. Heit, a 1977 graduate of Oakes College, was chosen for his development of Deep Brain Stimulation, a treatment for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and chronic pain.

The April 26 luncheon and awards presentation is the key event bringing together all alumni at Reunion Weekend. Interested members of the campus community and the public are also welcome to attend. Tickets are $18 each for Alumni Association members and $20 for nonmembers. The RSVP deadline is Friday, April 18; early reservations encouraged because seating is limited. To RSVP for the luncheon or find out more about Reunion Weekend, call (831) 459-2530, (800) 933-SLUG, or go online.

Contact the author at gwenm@ucsc.edu.