Two Cornell CALS faculty honored with Weiss teaching awards

Two Cornell CALS faculty members have been recognized by the university for excellence in their teaching of undergraduate students and contributions to undergraduate education.

Antonio DiTommaso, professor of soil and crop sciences, is one of three Cornell faculty members to receive this year's Stephen H. Weiss Presidential FellowshipBruce Monger, senior lecturer in earth and atmospheric sciences, received Weiss Provost’s Teaching Fellowships, presented to nontenure-track faculty who have demonstrated a commitment to extraordinary teaching. 

The fellowship awards were announced by President Martha E. Pollack Oct. 20 at a meeting of the Cornell University Board of Trustees. The award winners are chosen by a selection committee comprising emeritus faculty, current Weiss fellows and undergraduate students.

These are among Cornell’s highest honors for outstanding, exemplary teachers,” Pollack said. “The committee reviewed thousands of pages of material and engaged in spirited discussions to identify deserving candidates. I was pleased to accept the selection committee’s choices, and commend their commitment and diligence in putting forward truly outstanding candidates.”

Established in 1992, the Weiss Presidential Fellowship was conceived by the late Stephen H. Weiss ’57, chairman emeritus of the board of trustees, to recognize tenured Cornell faculty members for teaching and mentoring undergraduates. In addition to a respected scholarly career, the recipients have sustained records of effective, inspiring and distinguished teaching and contributions to undergraduate education.


DiTommaso’s students describe him as a passionate teacher who makes challenging subject matter exciting and engaging, and give him consistently high ratings for his classroom teaching and mentorship. He had a leadership role in creating the agricultural sciences major, which he has overseen for the past 12 years.

He encourages students to become curious and active observers who are, he says, “motivated to seek and learn new ways to discover, problem-solve, collaborate and develop critical thinking.” A productive and respected scholar in weed ecology, he is known for motivating an interest in agricultural science and weed biology even among those who initially had little enthusiasm for the subject.

He has twice been selected by Merrill Presidential Scholars as the professor who made the most significant contribution to their Cornell education, and he received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Professor of Merit award in 2012 and the Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Award in 2011.


Monger has been teaching at Cornell since 1999, and serves on the Climate Action Advisory Group and the Cornell Undergraduate Research Board. He is best known for Introductory Oceanography, which with more than 1,000 students has grown to have the highest enrollment of any course at Cornell. He also teaches smaller advanced courses.

“In both formats, he is known for being kind-hearted, genuine and able to relate to students from all backgrounds,” the committee noted. “He is generous in giving academic support and career advice to students outside of class, and even in his large course, where it is not possible to know students individually, he is able to personalize the experience by incorporating advice and personal stories.”

Other Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellowship recipients were Tomas Arias, professor of physics,  and Gerald Feigenson, professor of molecular biology and genetics. 

Stuart Davis, senior lecturer in English, received Weiss Provost’s Teaching Fellowship. Thomas Cleland, associate professor of psychology, was named a Weiss Junior Fellow, an honor given to recently tenured associate professors for excellence in teaching and notable scholarship.

A version of this story appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.