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Wharton alumnus Evan Thompson has pledged $1 million to endow a professorship honoring "teaching excellence in the four undergraduate schools," the Provost's Office announced yesterday.

"It's rare for an endowed professorship to be set up in which the primary criterion is excellence in teaching," University Provost Robert Barchi said. "It may be unique in our history."

Called the Evan C. Thompson Endowed Term Professorship for Excellence in Teaching, the professorship is open to faculty in any of Penn's four undergraduate schools.

Thompson explained why he set the chair up the way he did in the press release announcing the endowment.

"All of us who are lucky enough to come across a dedicated classroom teacher know how significantly the experience influences us," Thompson said. "This endowment demonstrates our appreciation for the commitment of those teachers."

Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Sam Preston was pleased with the new professorship.

"I think it's a wonderful development -- he's a very generous man," Preston said. "We certainly have a large array of outstanding teachers at Penn, and this is an opportunity to honor some of our best. I'm very enthusiastic about it."

The Provost's Office is soliciting recommendations for candidates for the chair from undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty.

The winner, who must be a tenured member of the standing faculty, will hold the chair for three years. During that time, the teaching activities sponsored by the endowed professorship "must include components of the undergraduate degree programs" of the University.

"We're very grateful to Evan Thompson for his generous contribution," Barchi said. "Penn is only as great as its finest faculty, and this endowment reinforces the critical idea that teaching is central to our mission at Penn."

Nominations are due by Dec. 15. The winner will be chosen by a committee headed by the provost or an officer designated by the provost.

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