Mariana Fanous

Former student body president Natalie Butler congratulates mathematics Professor James Vick for receiving the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Wednesday morning. The Friar Society presents the $25,000 award annually to an undergraduate proessor who demonstrates excellence in teaching.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

A professor’s 9 a.m. calculus class was interrupted when the Longhorn Band playing UT fight songs barged in yesterday to honor the professor and his achievements.

A large group of mathematics professor James W. Vick’s friends, co-workers students and members of the Longhorn band gathered outside of Vick’s classroom to present the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, while Vick taught his class, unaware of the coming award reveal.

The Longhorn band played “The Eyes of Texas,” and Vick was presented with a handful of orange and white, UT-themed balloons and an oversized cardboard check in the amount of $25,000 to use at his discretion. The Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship is one of the most prestigious teaching awards on campus. The UT Friar Society presents this award annually to one undergraduate professor who demonstrates excellence in teaching undergraduates and who contributes to the University community. The FCTF has an endowment of more than $500,000 and an annual award of $25,000, making it the largest faculty award at the University.

Biology senior and Friar Society member Shannon Allport said The Friar Society, established in 1911, is one of the oldest and most prestigious UT honor societies. Allport said Vick was the perfect candidate for the FCTF because he deserves to be recognized for all of his achievements.

Vick currently teaches math to undergraduates and is the former vice president of student affairs.

“The decision was not hard at all,” Allport said. “Dr. Vick has always been and always will be an outstanding member of the UT community.”

Math and economics senior Mariana Fanous nominated Vick for the award and said she first met him as a freshman in M 408D, a calculus sequence that Vick teaches. At first, Vick was just Fanous’s calculus professor, but as she began to visit him in office hours and listen to his speeches at various events, she began to have a deeper respect for Vick.

Fanous said Vick has spoken at Tejas Coffee and Spirit and Traditions Council meetings on topics such as how the University came together after the 1966 Tower shooting and the need for a freshman seminar class, which ultimately led to Vick founding freshman signature courses. Vick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008, a disorder of the brain that leads to shaking and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. He was honored at last years Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an annual event that promotes awareness of Parkinson’s disease, she said. Vick has participated in multiple campus plan initiatives, which help advance the University’s culture and community engagement.

“Dr. Vick’s participation in Pancakes for Parkinson’s resonated with me the most because the experiences he shared about the disease and event were so heartfelt and genuine,” Fanous said. “I was impressed and inspired by all of his fabulous achievements.”

As he accepted his cardboard check, Vick said The Friar Society has done many great things.

“This is terrific and means more to me than I can say,” Vick said. “UT Austin is a great university because of things that happen here with many people around you who are intelligent, excited and willing to give.”

Looking out to the crowd of students, friends and faculty, Vick said, “You’re the reason why I’m here.”

Vick sent out many thanks to all who support him and those who attended his surprise award reveal.

“The last time someone barged into my classroom like this was for my 40th birthday,” Vick said as laughter filled the classroom. “He was holding a clarinet and wearing a turkey suit.”

Printed on Thursday, April 5, 2012 as:  Math professor earns Friar Fellowship