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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2012 / 05 

Engineering students select Preston Durrill for teaching award

May 7, 2012

Preston Durrill and Ross Cooper
Left to right: Preston Durrill and Ross Cooper

The students of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering have selected Preston Durrill of the chemical engineering department as the 2012 recipient of the Sporn Award for Excellence in Engineering Education.

Each year, the Student Engineers' Council selects one faculty member out of the more than 300 in the college to receive the engineering Sporn Award. The council is the umbrella organization that includes students from all of the engineering degree granting disciplines at Virginia Tech. 

Ross Cooper of Midlothian, Va., an industrial and systems engineering major and the awards and scholarship chair of the council, solicited nominations from all engineering students, making the award a highly competitive process.

Durrill, who also received the Sporn Award in 2006, retired in 2002 from Radford University where he taught chemistry for 37 years. In addition to his teaching duties at Radford he also taught in Virginia Tech's chemical engineering department every summer since 1983. Durrill joined the faculty in 2004 as an adjunct professor in the chemical engineering and chemistry departments, teaching up to three courses each semester. He currently serves as an undergraduate advisor in chemical engineering.

"Preston is the epitome of what an educator should be. He is a gifted teacher who has a remarkable passion for his students. We are truly fortunate to have him at Virginia Tech," said John Walz, professor and department head of chemical engineering.

Comments from students in his classes included this one: "His class is tough but would be much more difficult if it was not for his helpfulness. What sold me on him was the fact that when I went to his office hours for the first time, I went to introduce myself, but he already knew my name and which class of his I was in." Another student said, "He is a great teacher and extremely helpful. Love his personality."

The Sporn Awards, made possible by gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Sporn and the alumni of the university, are presented to a teacher of undergraduate engineering subjects, a college award, and to a teacher of introductory subjects, a university award.

Durrill received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and a master's degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech.