MADISON — Four University of Wisconsin System teachers today received $5,000 awards as recipients of the 1998 Alliant Energy “Underkofler Excellence in Teaching” Awards. The teachers are: Jan Heide, associate professor of business marketing, UW-Madison; Donald Passman, professor of mathematics, UW-Madison; Sayeed Payesteh. associate professor of business and economics, UW-Fond du Lac; Lisa Riedle, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, UW-Platteville.

A ceremony honoring the recipients was held in Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.

The Underkofler awards are presented annually by Alliant Energy-Wisconsin Power and Light to recognize and reward outstanding teachers at University of Wisconsin institutions within the company’s service area. The awards are funded by a $250,000 endowment from the utility’s foundation to the UW System in honor of James R. Underkofler, who served as Wisconsin Power & Light Company chairman of the board from 1982 until his retirement in 1990. The awards pay tribute to Underkofler’s enduring interest in encouraging and promoting undergraduate teaching excellence.

UW System President Katharine Lyall praised the teachers for their commitment to students. “The winners demonstrate extraordinary dedication and innovation in their teaching,” Lyall said. “Their students have told us that they not only have inspired them to academic achievement, but also have served as role models that have changed students’ lives.”

Alliant Energy Executive Vice President William D. Harvey said the impact of excellent teaching on the state’s economy is significant. “As an employer, Alliant Energy places high value on teaching excellence. Well-taught students possess the creativity, training, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills Wisconsin needs to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economy.” Harvey praised the winners for their devotion to the UW System’s mission of excellence in instruction. “Each award recipient represents the best of what the Underkofler Award stands for – providing innovative approaches to teaching and challenging students to exceed their capabilities,” Harvey said.

Jan Heide has been a tenured member of the UW-Madison faculty since 1994, arriving here from Case Western Reserve University in 1993. He is recognized nationally for his research and scholarly writings, and is a member of the editorial review boards of the two most prestigious academic journals in the field of marketing.

Andrew Policano, dean of the School of Business and a member of the committee nominating Heide for the award, said: “Jan’s contributions to the University are extensive, particularly in the classroom. He is recognized not only as a top researcher but also as a very effective teacher in all levels of instruction: undergraduate, graduate, and executive.”

“My objectives as a teacher have evolved from simply trying to communicate a certain body of knowledge to providing a foundation for students’ life-long learning,” Heide said. His courses are designed around case studies of actual companies, and he challenges his students to analyze data and make decisions as they would in a real-life situation. “This approach adds realism to the learning process, and makes students assume responsibility for their own learning,” he explained. “In turn, this increases their motivation to learn and produces lasting benefits beyond the classroom.”

R.D. Nair, senior associate dean, School of Business offered this assessment: “Jan has a very distinctive high-energy style in the classroom, in which he engages every student, and draws them into the class discussion. His enthusiasm for the subject matter is infectious. He has a genuine interest in his students and in their learning experience.”

Donald Passman has been a member of the faculty at UW-Madison since 1969, serving as a full professor of mathematics since 1971. He is considered a “legend” among his many students—praised for his expertise, the effectiveness of his teaching, and the beneficial use of learning technology in his courses.

Richard Brualdi, chair of the Department of Mathematics, said: “He is the world’s foremost authority on group rings (a fundamental tool in mathematics) and algebras and is one of the finest and most prolific expositors in the field today. His extraordinary ability to present mathematical knowledge in class lectures, student seminars, and colloquia is known throughout the world. It is this extraordinary ability that he brings to the classrooms at UW-Madison.”

Passman suggested that “whatever success I have achieved as a teacher is based on the fact that I like and respect my students and that I love and respect my subject.” His classrooms are open and relaxed, encouraging discussion and questions. A department colleague, Professor Steve Bauman, elaborated: “Don is an extraordinary teacher. His strength as a teacher flows from his enormous understanding of the subject together with his apparently effortless ability to feel the essential flow of an argument and to present it in an elegant and lucid manner.”

Passman supports his lectures with computer-generated demonstrations that are projected onto a large TV-like screen. “The students seem to enjoy this multimedia event,” he said. Likewise, students are reacting favorably to the availability of course information, assignments and sample exam problems on Passman’s World Wide Web homepage (, which also includes data on his research and photos of his family. “Many students have indicated how much they enjoy learning about me in this way, and how much more willing they are to come speak to me because of this.”

Sayeed Payesteh has been a member of the UW-Fond du Lac faculty since 1991, achieving the rank of associate professor in 1997. Within the Department of Business and Economics and campuswide, he is known for his dedication to students and to the integrity of teaching.

“What sets Dr. Payesteh apart from the crowd is that he is a quality individual whose integrity in teaching is beyond reproach,” commented Lawrence Gomes, department chair. “Students respect him because he is thoughtful, caring and devoted to giving them the most help and guidance that he possibly can.”

Payesteh’s efforts in developing innovative approaches to teaching include the use of information technology in the classroom. He uses a personal webpage ( and the integration of materials from the Internet in his courses.

“Sayeed stands out as one who helps his students realize the value of intellectual rigor, critical thinking, and applying knowledge to real-life challenges,” noted Michael Nofz, professor of sociology. “He has used many innovative approaches, most notably getting students acclimated to and comfortable with current technological tools.”

Payesteh embraces a philosophy of teaching which views learning as an inherently interactive process. His courses are designed to encourage students to be active participants. “It has been very satisfying to me to learn that my students feel that my classes are challenging and prepare them well for their future studies.”

Lisa A. Riedle has been a member of the UW-Platteville faculty since 1990, and associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering since 1995. She is praised by students and faculty colleagues for her commitment to students and their success as individuals and career professionals.

“Dr. Riedle exhibits a uniqueness that I have seen in only a few instructors here—an overwhelming drive to assist the individual student,” said John Krogman, chair of general engineering.

Riedle believes in incorporating real-world challenges into classroom instruction, and has involved students in a range of learning activities to benefit the community at large. “She has developed an excellent reputation with local government agencies” to the benefit of her students,” said Richard Wetzel, professor of civil engineering. Examples include student projects that have resulted in: the reclamation of a mine tailings disposal area for the city of Platteville, a feasibility study and layout for a golf course in Lancaster, Wis., and the development of a walking path at historic Pendarvis House in Mineral Point.

“I believe that learning is an opportunity, and to assist individuals in reaching their goals through a college diploma (and) learning new evaluation techniques…is an opportunity for me as a teacher,” Riedle said. “I have found that in making (learning) fun, while emphasizing teamwork and communication skills, students continue to want to learn and become a role model in their professional careers and personal lives.”


Jonathan Henkes, UW System
(608) 263-3362

Tim Heinrich, Alliant
(608) 252-3221