The highest award at UW-River Falls, that of its Distinguished Teacher, has been accorded to associate Professor David Pepi of the College of Education & Graduate Studies.
Pepi becomes the 35th recipient of the most prestigious award presented by the University to recognize excellence in fulfilling UWRF's primary mission of undergraduate education.
Selection for the award is through polling of graduating seniors and recent graduates. Pepi will be recognized at graduation ceremonies on May 24 and will be invited to deliver the Fall Commencement address.
Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau, in making the announcement, noted that as a distinguished teacher, "Dr. Pepi joins a select group of caring, talented and very committed professionals."
A specialist in science education, Pepi drew strong endorsements from his past and current students:
"He stimulated and taught me how to enjoy and allow my students to enjoy Science," wrote one.
Another offered that Professor Pepi "is an excellent example and role model whose teaching reflects expertly the mission statement of the education department-not to mention he is a great guy!"
"He taught me how to teach children's science in an exciting way," another remarked.
A teacher noted, "As an instructor myself, I often remember Dr. Pepi's enthusiasm and try to model that for my students."
Pepi joined the faculty of the Department of Teacher Education in 1990 after teaching at the University of Montana-Missoula.
At UWRF, he teaches such undergraduate courses as science techniques in elementary education, middle schools and secondary schools, as well as graduate courses in elementary school science.
College of Education & Graduate Studies Dean Kathleen Daly says that Pepi has been inspirational to his students, to teachers in regional schools, and to his colleagues in his approaches to science education.
"He has developed relationships with teachers that have been just wonderful. He bings a philosophy of 'hands-on, minds-on, hearts-on' science education that is very unique to elementary schools.
"Dr. Pepi teaches that you don't have to travel to exotic places to appreciate the environment: an appreciation for the environment and an understanding of nature and science starts in our own backyards."
Underlying a practical approach to science education, Daly says, is his talent "for very deep philosophical statements about education."
In addition to his classroom responsibilities, Pepi has been active in attracting funding for education. As a collaborator with chemistry Professor
Marilyn Duerst, he received $500,000 from the National Science Foundation to establish a Physical Sciences Institute for K-3 teachers. Another grant from the United States Information Agency of approximately $60,000 supported an exchange of 10 Russian and American high school students for intensive seminars and wilderness backpacking expeditions in both countries.
Pepi also has been active in campus governance, both at the College and University level. Among the many committees he's served on were the Faculty Hearing, Grievance and Appeals, Long Range Planning, Teacher Education Admissions, Graduate Council and Scholarship Committee.
He holds a bachelor's degree from Humbolt State University, and a master's and doctorate from Cornell University.