Professor Jeff Sun
Professor Jeff Sun

When the Class of 2019 gathers for Spring Commencement ceremonies Saturday, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees will also formally recognize the winner of this year’s most prestigious faculty award – the Trustees Award.

In its 30th year, the Trustees Award recognizes one faculty member annually for his or her outstanding contributions to student life. The award is the most prestigious faculty honor at UofL.

This year’s recipient is Jeffrey C. Sun, JD, PhD, chair of the College of Education and Human Development’s Department of Educational Leadership, Evaluation, and Organizational Development (ELEOD). He is a nationally known scholar in higher education law who five years ago arrived at UofL and began the nation’s first faculty development program for U.S. Army ROTC instructors. The course, taught at Fort Knox, is attracting attention from others who want to partner with UofL, such as the U.S. Navy and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and has made UofL the leading ACC institution for percentage of student body who are military-connected.

Students and fellow faculty members alike wholeheartedly recommended him for the award, saying Sun’s unwavering support for his students despite his full schedule makes him stand out.

“I came to the University of Louisville to work with Dr. Sun,” wrote Megan J. Pifer, PhD, associate professor of higher education and senior assistant director of the Master Educator Course (MEC). “He cultivated his vision around what students need today, what they will need tomorrow, and how we must better prepare them for their lives and careers.”

She praised Sun for never letting his large-scale projects detract from his teaching and mentorship. “He is known for recognizing students by name and remembering the details of their journeys—the institutions where they work, their recent promotions, the names of their children, their ambitions. I have personally delivered thank-you notes to him hand-written by students who want to express their appreciation for his effort to see him, sometimes among hundreds at a time, as individuals with fears, goals and talents.”

William Kyle Ingle, PhD, associate professor and assistant ELEOD department chairperson, pointed out that Sun further impacts students indirectly through his leadership as department chair. Sun led the department to adopt four goals: enhance the student experience, value research and inquiry, develop partnerships and create a culture of community building and systems development.

“Dr. Sun is tireless in his pursuit of these goals and his dedication and work ethic are an example to us all,” Ingle wrote in his nomination letter. “… When a faculty member says he or she cannot, Dr. Sun says, yes you can.

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Raul Cantu, a former student who is senior military instructor at Stephen F. Austin State University and an 18-year active duty serve member, said thousands of cadets have benefited from what their leaders learned in the Sun’s MEC (formerly known as the Cadre and Faculty Development Course).

“Hundreds of students have completed (the course) and taken that knowledge to their host universities/programs,” he wrote. “…I can honestly say that my experience with the University of Louisville, (the MEC) and Dr. Sun has been transformative for me professionally and personally.”

Sun has a Doctor of Philosophy and a Master of Philosophy  from the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and Teachers College at Columbia University; a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Moritz College of Law – The Ohio State University; and an MBA, and International Business Certificate and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University. He is a member of the bar in Ohio.

During his career, he has won more than $10.3 million in grant and contract funding. He has more than $1.7 million in external funds under review.

Sun received the news that he won after the trustees voted on the award at their April 18 meeting.

“Given the many dedicated, high-quality professors at the University of Louisville, receiving this award is surprising and humbling,” Sun said.

The award is accompanied by a $5,000 prize. Sun plans to use $500 to establish a student scholarship fund in honor of Kelly Ising, a 42-year UofL employee who retired recently as ELEOD’s administrative associate. The rest he hopes to use on well-deserved break – a family vacation that will include his siblings and 10 nieces and nephews.

When asked his reaction to winning the Trustees Award, Sun provided his personal “Statement of Teaching.” He noted that he won similar teaching awards from his previous institutions.

“While the awards are emblems of my progress,” he wrote in his statement, “I recognize that my role and professional responsibility include continuous development–especially in terms of incorporating new technologies and applying findings from new research on graduate teaching and advising.”

More history of the Trustees Award and previous Trustees Award winners can be found here.