A faculty’s obligation

Today, upon my return home from Idaho, I read a very nice article on teaching and research. I was dean of the College of Engineering at UT from 1962 until 1969 and was the father of the “Teaching Effectiveness Program for Teaching Engineering Professors How to Teach their Classes.” The program was so successful that by 1970, it was adopted by almost every engineering program in the U.S. and is now used throughout the world. If we would compare professors to baseball players, you cannot be just a home run hitter or just a good fielder or just a good base stealer. You have to do it all. Research isn’t just lab research. Teaching isn’t “just teaching” because each teacher keeps up to date, through literature in his or her field, and this study is “research.” I had many faculty members who won national teaching awards for their classroom teaching and some of them never had a laboratory. When I was so highly honored with the Lamme National Engineering Teaching Award in 1976, I accepted with my challenge of a “Faculty Obligation,” which has since become accepted throughout the engineering teaching world as the obligation of the teacher to the student. Incidentally, we were all so proud when we learned that chemical engineering professor James Stice was named the Lamme Award winner of 2010. UT is the only university to have two winners, and more importantly, Stice is not a laboratory researcher. He spends 110 percent of his wonderful time in class or conferring with the students.

McKetta’s faculty obligation:
When one accepts a position as a university faculty member in any field, he should expect to write proposals for research, equipment and special projects; to publish articles, reports, papers and books and to keep up in his professional field; to serve on councils, boards and committees and to maintain the best possible relations with alumni, legislators and the business and industry of the region — in short to be a responsible member of the community and to participate in many of its activities.

But we must always know that these many activities must never overshadow our greatest concern: the student! If our responsibilities to, and concern for, the student ever becomes secondary, we will be violating the trust we accepted when we joined the faculty.


John McKetta, Former dean of the College of Engineering