Jim Lee’s online D. Min. class was interrupted unexpectedly on January 13. The surprise: SMU Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa “Zoom-bombed” the class to present Lee with the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. Pamela Hogan, his neighbor in Selecman Hall and coordinator of doctoral programs at Perkins, then presented him with a medal and plaque.
Dr. James Kang Hoon Lee is associate professor of the History of Early Christianity and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program and has been a member of the Perkins faculty since 2012. The annual Altshuler Award recognizes four SMU faculty members for their notable commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning.
“Dr. Lee’s teaching, in both traditional classrooms and in hybrid environments, has been exceptional,” said Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill in his nomination letter. “He has a history of service within SMU and Perkins, notably in his recent role of overseeing the restructure and execution of the new Doctor of Ministry program. The restructuring was as much pedagogical as curricular, attesting to his skilled capacity for teaching.”
Since 2001, the Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor Award honors faculty for their notable commitment to and achievements in fostering student learning. Recipients receive a $10,000 award and membership in SMU’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. For two years following the award, they participate actively with other members of the Academy in providing campus-wide leadership in teaching and learning.
Recipients are chosen because they are teachers “whose concerns for higher education go beyond classroom boundaries and often the boundaries of their own disciplines,” according to the award guidelines. “In student mentoring, in discussions about teaching, and in continuous reflection about their own successes and ways to improve, they represent the highest achievement in reaching the goals of higher education.”
Lee holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame, where he received a teaching award from the Kaneb Center. At Perkins, he teaches survey courses that cover 2,000 years of church history, and he teaches elective courses on topics such as Christian Mysticism, Early Christian Spirituality and the Bible, The Church in Early Christianity, and The Theology of St. Augustine. Lee hopes that the study of church history will serve as a resource for students facing practical challenges in the church today. As one student remarked after taking Lee’s courses, “I have seen that most of the issues that I deal with in leading my congregation within my tradition have been issues that have been repeated in ancient history,” and “I am better equipped to handle these issues today.”
Lee has been nominated twice before for teaching awards at SMU, but this is the first time that he has won an award from the Center for Teaching Excellence. The Altshuler Award is the most prestigious teaching award given to tenured faculty at SMU. “I am truly humbled and honored to receive the Altshuler Award,” Lee said. “It is a testament to the wonderful work of the faculty, staff, and leadership in the Perkins School of Theology. Above all, it is a reflection of the incredibly inspiring students that we are fortunate to serve at SMU.”
Other Altshuler recipients for 2020 include Jeffrey Kahn, professor of Law and Gerald J. Ford Research Fellow at SMU; Jill E. Kelly, associate professor of history in the William P. Clements Department of History within Dedman College; and William Maxwell, professor of finance at the Cox School of Business.