2009-10 Faculty Member of the Year Award: Robert Thorson

Dr. Robert Thorson earned his B.S. from Bemidji State College, his M.S. from the University of Alaska, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He is a professor of geology in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Anthropology, specializing in integrated geoscience, kettle lakes, and stone walls. He has been heavily involved with the Honors Program since the Spring of 2001, when he was a candidate for the Directorship of the Honors Program. That fall, he created an elective science course for Honors students, Current Issues in Environmental Science, one that is still being taught today. In 2004, he became fully invested with developing and teaching a new breed of interdisciplinary honors courses, creating Geoscience Through American Studies, the first course for what would later become the Honors Core curriculum.

He is a weekend journalist for the Hartford Courant, the state’s flagship daily newspaper.  Professionally, he is an active member of American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the North American Lake Management Society, the Thoreau Society, and the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Science.

In 2005, Dr. Thorson and Dr. Robert Gross (a previous winner of this award) proposed a curricular theme, “Nature and the Environment,” from which emerged the now-famous Walden course. Dr. Thorson said the Honors Program “must be seen primarily as a form of special education that doesn’t generate much sympathy, but one that high-achieving, hard-working, and high-aspiring students need in order to maximize their return on time and tuition… Any diplomas, medallions, transcripts, or engravings they carry away will be but decorations on the cake of the university experience.”  He says his supportive role as a professor is to “give each unique intellect the ‘tough love’ it needs to grow.”