Clarence Waters, who has been a driving force in the rise of Nebraska’s architectural engineering (AE) program to national prominence, is the first College of Engineering faculty member chosen to receive the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Aaron Douglas Professorship for Teaching Excellence.
The John E. Weaver and Aaron Douglas professorships were established in 2008 to recognize any university faculty member with the rank of full professor who demonstrates “sustained and extraordinary levels of teaching excellence and national visibility for instructional activities and/or practice.”
The professorships carry a $5,000 stipend, are awarded for five-year terms and may be renewed in the fifth year. Faculty awarded the professorship may choose either the Douglas or Weaver designation.
Waters felt a connection to one of the names, choosing to honor the legacy of Aaron Douglas, an African-American artist known for his works in the Harlem Renaissance. In 1922, Douglas became the first African-American to earn an art degree from the University of Nebraska.
But it was something deeper and more personal for Waters.
“Aaron Douglas was not only a pioneer at the University of Nebraska, he was born in Topeka, Kansas. I was born and raised in Junction City, which is close by,” Waters said. “When I was a kid, we learned about him and his art because he was from Kansas. It just felt right.
“I’m so honored to be chosen as the first engineering faculty to be recognized in this way,” Waters said. “Being able to carry on the name of Aaron Douglas is a privilege.”
Waters came to The Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction in 2000 as an associate professor and served as the director of the architectural engineering program from 2005-10. He has also earned many teaching awards, including the Architectural Engineering Institute’s 2016 Outstanding Educator Award that is given to the nation’s top educator in the field.
In addition to his teaching and research, Waters is also the AE program’s chief industry liaison to the vibrant architectural engineering industry in Omaha and nationally. Industry involvement in the program, Waters said, has been instrumental as the program grew from its inception less than two decades ago into one of the nation’s most-prestigious.
“It’s really second to none around the country and it’s because of the industry involvement,” Waters said. “It’s been recognized by many and we’re just lucky to be here, lucky to be in this place and have this program, the industry support and the quality students we have.”
Lance C. Pérez, interim dean of the College of Engineering, said this appointment recognizes Waters’ long-term commitment to building a nationally recognized, student-focused architectural engineering program.
“Clarence is a devoted faculty member with a deep commitment to his field and the academic and professional success of all architectural engineering students,” Pérez said. “Since he joined us, he has been instrumental in building one of the nation’s premier architectural engineering programs whose graduates are becoming leaders in Nebraska companies and in the profession.”
“Clarence’s career exemplifies teaching excellence and I cannot imagine a better choice to be the first Aaron Douglas professor in the College of Engineering.”
Waters said he feels “lucky” to have been chosen for this honor.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and I love what I do. It’s a good fit,” Waters said. “I honestly believe I’m a fortunate man to have been placed here in this environment. It’s a bunch of circumstances that have come together and I’m just along for the ride.”
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