Dr. Tim Ritter, a physics professor at UNC Pembroke, has been named the recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The Board of Governors selects one faculty member from each of the 17 UNC campuses for the award. The awards will be presented during the spring 2013 commencement ceremonies on each campus.
Dr. Ritter will receive a bronze medallion and a $7,500 cash prize. He will serve as grand marshal at UNCP ceremonial events during the 2013-14 academic year and deliver the address at Winter Commencement 2013.
Established by the Board of Governors in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching across the university, the awards are given annually to a tenured faculty member from each UNC campus.
In the 17 years that Dr. Ritter has been at UNCP, he has established an outstanding reputation for teaching and service to the university and its students, said Dr. Kenneth Kitts, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.
"Tim Ritter is a very dedicated, engaging and successful professor," Dr. Kitts said. "He has a terrific manner with students and is known for his accessibility and caring attitude. He is also an ideal campus citizen who has been involved in activities ranging from our Quality Enhancement Plan to the Go-to Faculty initiative.
"As a long-serving officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, he leads by example and has distinguished himself through his commitment to professionalism and service in all things," he continued. "Tim represents the best that UNCP has to offer our students. We are pleased to celebrate him as our 2013 recipient of the Award for Teaching Excellence."
The hallmark of Dr. Ritter's career has been his consistency and dedication. He started as a judge for the Region IV Science and Engineering Fair 17 years ago, and he is the co-director today.
More than 10 years ago, Dr. Ritter led the first team of UNCP students, dubbed the Weightless Lumbees, into NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. This year, his seventh team will fly with their experiment on NASA's microgravity research aircraft in Houston, Texas.
His dedication extends to his country as well. As a Commander in the Navy Reserves, Dr. Ritter has been called to active duty twice since 9/11; once to Norfolk as a federal agent with NCIS and once to Iraq for a yearlong deployment as a military advisor. He has served a total of 21 years in the military.
"Seventeen years at UNCP has flown by," Dr. Ritter said. "It has been an interesting and exciting time here."
One thrill that Dr. Ritter never grows tired of is the art of teaching abstract scientific concepts to science and non-science majors alike.
"I really enjoy teaching physical science," he said. "I try to inspire my students and to make advanced concepts relevant to students' every day lives. My greatest thrill is when they tell me about applying something they learned in class to a real life problem.
"When I accomplish this goal, that is when I feel I have given students what they deserve," Dr. Ritter said. "Teaching is something you do because you love it."
Dr. Ritter's students, like 2007 graduate Megan Grimsley Smith, say that his door is always open for tutoring and advisement.
"His greatest assets are the positivity and encouragement he exudes," Smith said. "He genuinely cares about students' successes and struggles. He will continue to be a great role model and friend."
Candace Langston, a student and research assistant, said Dr. Ritter's enthusiasm for teaching is not confined to the classroom.
"The walls of Oxendine Science Building do not define his classroom," Langston said. "There is rarely a time when Dr. Ritter does not have someone in his office. His passion for teaching and knowledge is obvious."
Dr. Mark Canada, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, visited his class recently and described him as "down-to-earth, approachable, lively, funny, interesting and enthusiastic."
"Dr. Ritter has an engaging presence while simultaneously covering substantive material thoroughly and clearly," Dr. Canada said. "Clearly conversant with his subject matter, he was able to lecture fluently on complex concepts, think on the fly, respond to students' questions, and, in one case, read between the lines and see the nature of a student's thinking even when not perfectly articulated."
Clearly, a role model for UNCP students, Dr. Ritter credits others for his inspiration.
"My father is an ordained minister who worked 6-7 days a week at the church, on committees and visiting with the sick," Dr. Ritter said. "I attribute my sense of commitment to him."
Dr. Ritter has also learned the value of having a strong support system at home.
"Between my job at UNCP and serving in the Navy, I spend a good bit of time away from home." he said. "I am very grateful to have such a supportive wife, who herself is retired military, so she understands."
Dr. Ritter received his bachelor's, master's and, doctoral degrees in physics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.