Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence

The Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence recognizes outstanding faculty who promote intellectual curiosity and active learning; model and foster intellectual rigor and honesty and a zest for learning; develop connections between course material and life outside the classroom; are available to students, attentive to their needs, and enjoy the teacher-student relationship. This award honors those teachers who, over a period of years, have made a real difference: those who have served as exemplars in the Santa Clara, Jesuit tradition of service, who have challenged their students in ways that have forced them to look at the world afresh, who have exerted a major influence over the intellectual and moral development of their students, who have, in short, made an imprint that is still felt in some way years after graduation.


For nomination guidelines, please see below:

1. Only students and alumni/alumnae may nominate a faculty member for the Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence.

2. All nominations must be completed through the Teaching Excellence Nomination Form

3. The following criteria are required for eligibility:

  • 10 years or more at Santa Clara University (the year a faculty member joined the University is given in parentheses next to the faculty member's name in the back of the Undergraduate Bulletin)
  • substantial teaching at the undergraduate level
  • has not previously won this award (previous winners listed below and right)

5. Once nominated, a faculty member stays in the pool of candidates under active consideration for three years.

6. The deadline for nominations is Monday, April 22, 2019.

Selection Considerations
  • Candidate's teaching promotes intellectual curiosity and active learning.
  • Candidate models and fosters intellectual rigor and honesty and a zest for learning.
  • Candidate develops connections between the course material and life outside the classroom.
  • Candidate is available to students, attentive to their needs, and enjoys the teacher-student relationship.
  • The candidate supports Santa Clara University's values, goals and tradition.
    • 2017 Winner Simone Billings


      For over 35 years, Dr. Simone Billings has insisted on the very best from her students. Nomination letters (many!) described her demanding teaching style. One writer called her the “quintessential teaching model for rigor and honesty,” while another noted that “not every demanding professor is as beloved as Professor Billings.” She strikes a balance between high expectations and deep care for her students, who appreciate her because, as one alum put it, “she works as hard (if not harder) than she expects us to.” Simone's impact on students is not only a result of her teaching, but her guidance and encouragement throughout their time on campus and beyond.

    • 2016 Winner Silvia Figueira

      Computer Engineering

      Silvia is widely praised for motivating and inspiring students and is described by her students as a “model for intellectual curiosity”. Silvia has had an impact on students from their earliest courses in programming to their senior projects and beyond. At every stage, she pushes her students to use their knowledge, skills, and talent in service of community. Students have recounted that she consistently takes time to encourage them to pursue competitive scholarships and internships, advised them on whether and why to attend graduate school, and helped them cultivate contacts in industry. She has also been a tireless advocate for women in engineering, creating opportunities for them on campus and promoting their involvement in national organizations and conferences.

    • 2015 Winner Shannon Vallor


      Shannon's intense passion for her subject matter and clear interest in fostering a deeper student understanding of complex philosophical questions creates great interest and motivation amongst her students. Many of her advisees have gone on to excellent graduate schools, including Rhodes Scholar Noelle Lopez, who earned a doctorate from Oxford and now has a post-doc at Harvard. One of her students said she taught them to "judge less, think more, and never stop asking questions", and that "you leave the classroom with a new vigor and a sense of cognitive satisfaction".

    • 2014 Winner Patti Simone


      A student who worked with Patti as both a research and peer educator wrote "her commitment to her research and her students has shown me what is possible as a professor an academic. I am going to work as hard as I can to try to match her dedication". Patti calls her students to action no only with academic rigor but to community engagement. In her Psychology of Aging class, her students study aging as they develop relationships with members of the Santa Clara Senior Center. The course culminates in a final project where seniors and their families view student-generated digital autobiographies of seniors. Students say "as a mentor, she offers a unique blend of push, guidance, and ultimate confidence in her students".

    • 2013 Winner Jeff Zorn


      Jeff has earned a remarkable reputation among students. They say: “The coursework provided was challenging but did not seem like work because of how rewarding and enlightening it was,” and “The obstacles and frustrations that his students face are always fresh on his mind . . . his classes are always the first to fill in the English department because the students know: he is a master teacher.” One faculty letter writer, voicing support for the students’ nomination, notes that our honoree is admired not just by students but by his peers as well, calling him a true “’teacher’s teacher.’

    Previous Honorees

    2012 - Scott LaBarge (Philosophy and Classics)
    2011 - Chuck Powers (Sociology)
    2010 - Brian McNelis (Chemistry)
    2009 - William J. Prior (Philosophy)
    2008 - David Pinault (Religious Studies)
    2007 - Eileen Elrod (English)
    2006 - Phil Kesten (Physics)
    2005 - Marilyn Fernandez (Anthropology and Sociology)
    2004 - John Heath (Classics)
    2003 - Linda Brunauer (Chemistry)
    2002 - Rose Marie Beebe (Modern Language and Literature)
    2001 - Bill Greenwalt (Classics)
    2000 - Mario Belotti (Economics)
    1999 - M. Ann Brady (English)
    1998 - Robert Senkewicz, S.J. (History)
    1997 - Fred D. White (English)
    1996 - Steven C. Chiesa (Civil Engineering)
    1995 - Robert J. Pfeiffer (Chemistry)
    1994 - Frederick J. Parrella (Religious Studies)
    1993 - George F. Giacomini, Jr. (History)
    1992 - Eric O. Hanson (Political Science)
    1991 - Eugene J. Fisher (Mechanical Engineering)
    1990 - Carolyn A. Mitchell (English)
    1989 - Timothy O'Keefe (History)
    1988 - Gerald E. Markle (Applied Mathematics)
    1987 - Theodore J. Mackin, S. J. (Religious Studies)