GW Distinguished Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants Honored at 14th Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony

Awardees were recognized for excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and service.

May 1, 2024

2024 Faculty Honors awards

From left: Provost Bracey, CCAS Professor Manuel Cuellar, CCAS Professor Christopher L. Cahill, Milken Institute SPH Professor James Tielsch and President Granberg. (William Atkins/GW Today)

At the 14th Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony, the George Washington University community gathered in the Jack Morton Auditorium to recognize faculty and express appreciation for their contributions to the university.

Faculty and graduate students were celebrated by President Ellen M. Granberg. “This ceremony is an important opportunity to take a break from our busy schedules, reflect on our accomplishments, and celebrate GW’s talented faculty,” Granberg said. “Your accomplishments bring distinction not only to yourselves but also to your family, friends and colleagues as well as your departments, schools, colleges, and, of course, the entire university.”

Sharing award presentation duties with Granberg, Provost Christopher Alan Bracey, executive vice president for academic affairs and professor of law, said the teaching and research excellence of the distinguished honorees “are the single most important ingredient in our efforts to achieve [GW’s] academic mission.”

This year, a new honor, the Gold Anniversary Award, was bestowed on active faculty who have completed 50-plus years of continuous service. Lilien F. Robinson, professor of art history, is the longest-serving active faculty member, having started at GW in fall 1965. Those who served the university for 25 consecutive years were honored with a Silver Anniversary Award. Also recognized were faculty who have concluded their tenure as active faculty members and have been inducted into the Society of the Emeriti.

The Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prizes were established by President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in honor of his parents. They are the highest faculty awards granted by GW to tenured members of the faculty for teaching excellence, scholarship and service.

This year’s winner of the Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence was Manuel E. Cuellar, associate professor of Spanish and Latin American Literatures and Cultures.

“I ask my students to think critically about how they acquire information, how knowledge is produced and transmitted.” Cuellar said. “If you ask any one of my students, they will tell you I’m obsessed with form, the how. How acquire information, be that via a novel, a performance, a podcast … and so I ask my students to tap into their personal journeys to create this new knowledge, be that a children’s book, embroidery, or painting.”

GW undergraduate Isabella LeBlanc, B.A. ‘24, a double major in sociology and Spanish, known for her campus leadership and commitment to social justice, nominated Cuellar for the award and presented the Trachtenberg Prizes.

She credits him with “encouraging students to imagine the world not just as it is, but as it ought to be.”

“He showcases his extraordinary ability to navigate complex and emotional discussions with empathy and insight as an educator, inspiring students like me to dream bigger and aim higher,” LeBlanc said.

Christopher L. Cahill, professor of chemistry and international affairs, was awarded the Trachtenberg Prize for Scholarship (Research) for being a leader in his field with over 160 peer-reviewed publications and for his role in nuclear science curriculum development.

“Frankly, I enjoy the personal interaction more so than I enjoy the pursuit of science and unanswered questions,” Cahill said. “That engagement with other human beings in a shared activity of going after unanswered questions, is really, to me, the biggest reason to be doing this.”

James M. Tielsch, chair of the Department of Global Health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health and professor of global health, was awarded the Trachtenberg Prize for Service. He was recognized for his steady leadership, institutional knowledge and uncompromising commitment to improving the school, as well as for his service outside the classroom on pivotal roles in the Faculty Senate and on critical search committees.

“As you get more senior and move along in the ranks,” Tielsch said, “service becomes a more prominent part of your responsibilities. Service also teaches you to learn outside the boundaries of your discipline.”

The Technology Commercialization Office’s GW Inventor of the Year  award was established last year to celebrate a faculty member’s impact on society through transferring patented technology from academia to the commercial sector. It symbolizes GW’s commitment to translating research output into useful products.

Rong Li, chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine and the Ross Professor of Basic Science Research in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was recognized as the 2024 GW Inventor of the Year. He is a highly accomplished cancer biology researcher with a longstanding history of conducting original and innovative science. His work has focused primarily on answering important questions concerning breast cancer biology, and his success promises to change approaches to cancer treatment for many patients.

“I see my classroom teaching as a source of inspiration and insight for my translation of research in the laboratory,” Li said. “In the past several years, immunotherapies have really transformed cancer treatment. One discovery by my team was to identify a protein molecule that enables tumors to set up this physical barrier to prevent immune cells from turning into tumors. And so, this discovery leads to the development of an antibody which can neutralize this immune excluding activity of its protein molecule. It is our hope that eventually this will lead to a therapeutic drug that can boost the response rate of current standard care immune therapies and ultimately improve overall survival of cancer patients.”

To see the full list of faculty award winners, finalists and distinguished external awardees, including new faculty emeriti and the Silver Anniversary Faculty Awards, please go the 14th Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony page.