Prof. Hollenbeck finally wins 'the big one'


Prof. Peter Hollenbeck reacts to the news he has won a Murphy Award

Prof. Peter Hollenbeck reacts to the news that he has won a Charles B. Murphy Award Monday morning in the lobby of Lilly Hall.


While his students were shaking off the cobwebs of spring break, Peter Hollenbeck, a professor and associate department head of Biological Sciences, received a career honor Monday morning in Lilly Hall.

Hollenbeck is one of six 2013 winners of the coveted Charles B. Murphy Award, which is Purdue University's highest undergraduate teaching honor.

In 2012, Chemistry Prof. Dor Ben-Amotz received a Murphy Award for his work in helping young students understand — and enjoy — Physical Chemistry. However, Ben-Amotz was first told he was a Murphy winner before he was presented with it. For the first time, the Murphy Award committee opted to surprise its winners. The other winners will be announced later this week.

Hollenbeck was summoned from his second-floor office to the Lilly lobby where he was presented with black and gold Purdue balloons, camera flashes, a video interview, and many congratulatory hugs and handshakes from Biological Sciences colleagues. Several students who happened to be nearby studying or reading The Exponent got to find out about Dr. Hollenbeck’s award when he did.

“It is a wonderful and deeply fulfilling feeling to win the Murphy award, the big one,” stated Dr. Hollenbeck, whose work with human nerve cells and Tourette syndrome is nationally recognized. “I knew that the award would be announced this week, but my department head, Richard Kuhn, caught me completely unaware and walked me into a surprise party. … It’s hard to express how much the success of my students and the respect of my faculty colleagues means to me.”

Ben-Amotz, who was on the selection committee, said Dr. Hollenbeck’s work outside of the classroom helped earn him the award. Hollenbeck puts dozens of hours a week to help students with his extended office hours, reworking of lesson plans and helping out at evening study sessions. 

“Good teaching and mentoring at Purdue can take many forms: managing lecture courses, teaching in more hands-on situations, working with first-generation or mature or at-risk students, getting involved in club sports, and other student activities,” he said. “We are privileged here to be able to influence the education and development of young people in many different ways.” 

Hollenbeck revealed he has been nominated numerous times during his Purdue tenure. He said he felt like Meryl Streep at the 2012 Oscars. The acclaimed actress had gone almost 30 years between awards despite 12 nominations. Hollenbeck finally got “the big one,” too.

“It was not a goal per se -- but after being nominated a number of times it was certainly a desire,” he said. “I have even more to live up to now. I will spend the rest of my career working hard to justify the recognition and trust that my colleagues and Purdue have given to me this week.”

Hollenbeck's colleagues cheer him on.

Colleagues of Prof. Peter Hollenbeck cheer him on after the announcement of his winning a Charles B. Murphy Award for undergraduate teaching excellence.

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