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Finally, emeriti professorship to boost ‘art, science of teaching’

By Dave Jones on November 3, 2006 in University

More than 50 years ago, UC Regent Edward Dickson set up a trust fund that included a provision for "professorships," monetary awards for retired UC faculty to keep them involved in teaching, research and public service.

The Dickson trust, originally valued at $207,381, also supported noncharitable beneficiaries, and as these people have died, their portions have gone to UC, too. The university's share grew to a market value of $2.14 million as of Sept. 30; more money is due when the last noncharitable beneficiary passes away.

In 2003, the UC Office of the President split the university's share of the fund 10 ways, with each campus getting an equal share. And recently UC Davis made its first award: a $10,000 Dickson Emeriti Professorship to Dick Walters, a professor emeritus of computer science and medical informatics. Walters plans to use the money to continue his workshops on teaching, learning and technology, with an emphasis on pedagogy, or the art and science of teaching.

"When anyone gets a Ph.D.," Walters said, "they learn zip about how to teach."

Walters joined the UC Davis faculty in 1967 and retired from full-time teaching in 2000. Throughout the years, he developed a series of workshops on five topics: learning objectives, how people learn, testing and evaluation, technology and who we are as teachers.

As for the latter, Walters commented: "If we don't know who we are as teachers, we can't know who our students are and how to help them."

Walters has presented his workshops on his own and through the Teaching Resources Center. Now, with the Dickson Emeriti Professorship, he plans to present some or all of them at least one more time, in the winter and spring quarters.

"More important, I will prepare all this content so that it can be taught by other people in the future," said Walters, who is 76.

Walters credited Charles Hess for spearheading the effort to start awarding the Dickson Emeriti Professorship at UC Davis. Hess did this while serving as president of the Emeriti Association.

Hess explained that the association established an Awards and Recognition Committee, and it recommended Walters for the first Dickson award. The Offices of the Chancellor and Provost signed off on Walters' selection.

"We liked his proposal because it was something that would contribute to the campus as a whole," said Hess, dean emeritus of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "We think Dick is a good example of what the committee was looking for."

Jon Wagner, director of the Teaching Resources Center, said: "Dick Walters has been a tireless educator and a strong advocate for the continuing education of university faculty members. … Through the Teaching Resources Center, I will be working with Dick to translate some of his expertise and teaching materials into forms that faculty members and graduate students can use for some time to come."

Walters happens to be the 2006-07 Emeriti Association president, but the process of picking him for the Dickson Professorship was already done before he took office.

In the future, the award may be used for salary stipends for emeriti called back to teach.

"We will place highest priority on proposals that clearly benefit the campus and for which funding is not available from other sources," Hess said.

Dickson was a regent for 43 years, from 1913 to 1956, the longest tenure of any UC regent ever.

The Wisconsin native graduated from UC Berkeley in 1901, according to a feature story on UCLA's Web site in October 2001. After a year teaching in Japan, he returned to the United States and launched a journalism career as a reporter with The Sacramento Record-Union, the San Francisco Chronicle and finally the Los Angeles Express, the article states.

In 1917, while working as political editor of the Los Angeles Express, Dickson helped formulate a plan to convert the Los Angeles State Normal School into UC's Southern Branch — which eventually became UCLA.

He and Ernest Carroll Moore, president of the Normal School, convinced the UC regents, the Legislature and the governor, and then found a permanent spot in Westwood for the new university.

Dickson died in 1956 at age 76.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,