UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi walked into Randy Dahlgren's soil science class Thursday cake in hand to award him the 2012 UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.
Established in 1986, the award honors faculty who are both exceptional teachers and scholars. The $40,000 prize is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country, according to university officials. It is funded through the UC Davis Foundation.
Dahlgren was lauded by the university for his energy and enthusiasm, and his ability to take a subject commonly viewed as uninteresting and make it relevant to students' lives.
"Randy's ability to engage students while challenging them underscores his commitment to student success," Katehi said in a statement. "He has inspired many of them to pursue careers in environmental science, while also maintaining his own active research and administrative load."
In addition to being a professor, Dahlgren is chairman of the department of land, air and water resources at the university and director of the Kearney Foundation of Soil Science.
He is currently researching soil and water chemistry at Mount Shasta.
The winner of the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement is selected each year on the nominations of professors, research peers, representatives from the UC Davis Foundation board and students.
An event to celebrate the award will be held May 3.