Hilldale Awards

Hilldale Awards Ceremony

Mon. Apr. 4, 2022

5:45 p.m.

Olin House

Good evening.  It’s wonderful to see you all here.  After two years of virtual award ceremonies, it is really a treat to welcome you in-person to our annual celebration of the Hilldale Awards — UW–Madison’s top faculty honor.

We presented the awards earlier today at the Faculty Senate meeting, and now it’s time to celebrate!

These awards honor four outstanding faculty members:

  • Michael Bernard-Donals
  • Anna Huttenlocher
  • Steve Wright
  • and Tim Smeeding

Please join me in a round of applause for these accomplished scholars.

The Hilldale Awards have been given annually since 1987.  It’s the only faculty honor that recognizes the trifecta of contributions:  teaching excellence, research achievement, and dedication to public service.

Each year, one outstanding faculty member is selected from each area — Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences.

Faculty who receive this award are skilled instructors who have had a profound impact on their students.  They’re innovative researchers who have made groundbreaking contributions to their fields.  And they’re dedicated to serving the university, their profession, and the public.

We’d be here all night if I tried to tell you everything that makes each of these individuals worthy of this honor, but let me say just a few words about their accomplishments.

First, Dr. Michael Bernard-Donals, Chaim Perelman Professor of Rhetoric and Culture and Nancy C. Hoefs Professor of English.

He was nominated by Anja Wanner, Chair of the English department.

  • Michael is one of the world’s leading scholars in the fields of composition and rhetoric. He is widely recognized for his work in rhetorical theory, Holocaust studies, and memory studies.
  • He has had a profound impact on undergraduate education as director of two writing programs that satisfy the Comm A and Comm B requirements. And he is the Executive Director of the initiative to create the Center for Teaching and Research on Writing, which will coordinate the various writing programs in the English department.
  • In his six years of service as Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff, he helped to launch programs like the Cluster Hire Initiative and the TOP program to help us recruit faculty who are underrepresented in our departments.

Michael, congratulations and thank you for your exceptional contributions to the university and to your field!

Next we have Dr. Anna Huttenlocher, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

She was nominated by Dr. Ellen Wald, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and Public Health.

  • Anna is an internationally recognized physician-scientist. Her research focus is cell migration, which plays a central role in cancer, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.
  • Her groundbreaking use of zebrafish as a model has transformed the way researchers are able to study basic cellular processes like wound healing. This has opened new doors for treating a broad range of human diseases.
  • Her lab even played a role in diagnosing a rare disorder in a patient who suffered from recurring infections.
  • Anna is also strongly committed to the university’s educational mission. She has had an enormous impact on graduate education, both as a mentor of grad students and postdocs and in helping to direct the M.D./Ph.D. program for over 20 years.
  • And if all that weren’t enough, she is also an active clinician caring for patients in pediatrics and rheumatology.

Anna, congratulations and thank you for your many contributions to the university and to your field.

Next is Dr. Stephen Wright, the George B. Dantzig Professor of Computer Sciences in the College of Letters and Science.  Steve is traveling and couldn’t be with us tonight.

He was nominated by his department chair, Professor Remzi Arpaci-Dusseau.

  • Steve is a world-renowned researcher in the field of optimization.  Over more than three decades, he has conducted basic research as well as applications-oriented work that has had an impact in such diverse areas as machine learning, computational statistics, meteorology, and cancer-treatment planning.
  • He has had a profound impact on teaching in optimization. He is a sought-after teacher and mentor with a knack for communicating complex information, and he has authored textbooks that are used on campuses all over the country.
  • He directs the Institute for Foundations of Data Science at UW, and leads a federally funded interdisciplinary team that’s building on the university’s long history of important contributions to both fundamental and applied data science.

We are grateful for his contributions to the university and to his field.

And finally, Dr. Timothy Smeeding, Lee Rainwater Distinguished Professor of Public Affairs and Economics.

Tim was nominated by Susan Webb Yackee, Director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs; and Katherine Magnuson, Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty.

  • Tim is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking contributions to understanding and addressing the intertwined problems of poverty and inequality.
  • He has pioneered techniques for measuring poverty, and income and wealth inequality, that are used by governments and organizations around the world to inform policy and programs.
  • He is also passionate about education. Within the La Follette School, he teaches students at all levels in policy analysis and comparative social policy.  And he designed and teaches the first introductory undergraduate course for the La Follette School’s new certificate in public policy.
  • His many service activities include directing UW’s Institute for Research on Poverty, creating the annual Wisconsin Poverty Report, and heading the University Lectures committee.

Tim, thank you for your exceptional contributions to your field and to the university.  Congratulations!

This opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our world-class faculty is one of the best parts of my job.  I hope you enjoy the evening and sample all of the wonderful foods — our caterer tonight is Fairchild restaurant, which focuses on locally sourced ingredients, simply prepared.  Their executive chef, Itaru Nagano, was just named Madison’s 2022 Chef of the Year.

And now, please join me in extending one more heartfelt thank you and congratulations to this year’s Hilldale Award winners.