News: Press Releases

June 6, 2016

Robert J. and Donna Manning create program to encourage and reward outstanding teaching at each UMass campus

  • The UMass System

BOSTON – Robert J. and Donna Manning, alumni and major supporters of the University of Massachusetts, have created the Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching to reward five outstanding UMass faculty members – one from every campus – with $10,000 each.  The first-year winners in the $50,000-a-year program were announced today.

The grants will be awarded to faculty who demonstrate excellence in teaching along with exemplary dedication to students and the campus community.  Each campus creates its own nominating and selection process, although it must include input from both students and the candidate’s peers.

Robert Manning (UMass Lowell ’84) is the Chairman of MFS Investment Management and a member and former Chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees.  Donna Manning (UMass Lowell ’85, ’91) has been an oncology nurse at Boston Medical Center for nearly 30 years.  The couple has committed a total of nearly $11 million to the University, including $4 million in support for facilities for nursing and business students.  They are among the largest contributors to UMass in its history.

The Manning Prize of Excellence in Teaching was announced today during a ceremony that included Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Stan Rosenberg,House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Secretary of Education Jim Peyser.

“Rob and Donna have shown an exceptional level of commitment to making UMass a world-class institution and the Manning Prize for Excellence is just the latest expression of that commitment,” said Governor Charlie Baker, who reappointed Robert Manning to the Board of Trustees last August.  “To the benefit of everyone in Massachusetts who cares about public higher education – and that should include everyone – Rob and Donna have never forgotten where they’ve come from.”

“Once again, UMass is grateful to Rob and Donna Manning for their leadership, generosity and commitment to the UMass mission of widening access to a top-quality, university education,” said UMass President Marty Meehan.  “With the Manning Prize, they have demonstrated their understanding of not just the connection between education and success in the job market, but the decisive role that an individual professor can play in influencing the trajectory of a student’s entire life.”

“This is just the latest example of the creativity and engagement that have characterized Rob and Donna’s relationship with UMass,” said UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Victor Woolridge.  “They see a need or an opportunity for improvement and they act on it with the energy, enthusiasm and dedication that are responsible for their own success.  They personify the blend of achievement and paying back that UMass strives to teach every day.”

“In our view, nothing we have done for UMass is more important than this program,” said Robert Manning.  “The faculty is what animates the institution.  It defines the educational experience.  It is the DNA.  By supporting excellence in teaching, we hope to encourage and reward the kind of sustained extra effort that made such a difference for Donna and me and thousands of other UMass graduates.”

Manning recounted his own experience while at UML with a math professor whose foresight and personal interest in Manning were responsible for Manning landing the job that launched his career.  Professor Bernie Shapiro, who retired as professor emeritus in 1996, created a computer science minor for business students – a major innovation in the early 1980s – and insisted that Manning participate.  When Manning later applied for a job as a junk bond analyst at MFS, the head of the junk bond department bemoaned that there was no way to monitor aggregate portfolio performance.  With the computer capability gained from Shapiro, Manning said that he could develop a computerized index.  It got him the job and started a 35-year career that took him to the top of the financial industry.

The Manning Prize winners announced today are (in alphabetical order):

  • Scott M. Auerbach, PhD, Chemistry, who is known for his transformative approaches to STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education over his 20 years at UMass Amherst.  Auerbach is the creator of the nationally acclaimed Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) program, an innovative, 20-credit concentration in real-world, interdisciplinary science.  Auerbach has successfully recruited under-represented minorities into iCons and connected iCons and the UMass Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation.  He has also brought the iCons case-study approach to a variety of organizations outside UMass, including Girls, Inc. in Holyoke, a national after-school program for middle and high school girls.
  • John R. Buck, PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering, who has implemented a series of unique pedagogies that have deepened student learning during his 20 years at UMass Dartmouth.  Buck has developed three innovations that have been implemented in several courses: active learning techniques, Systems Concept Inventory, and online tutorial videos, which have been viewed more than 200,000 times worldwide.  Buck is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in recognition of his contributions to the applications of random matrix and information theory in acoustic signal processing and bioacoustics.
  • Julie A. Jonassen, PhD, Microbiology and Physiological Systems, who during her 30 years at UMass Medical School has seamlessly integrated basic and clinical sciences.  Jonassen is co-director of the Development, Structure and Function course, which integrates physiology, anatomy, histology, embryology and the clinical imaging aspects of normal human structure and function.  She has also served on numerous University committees and co-led a comprehensive, five-year review of the UMMS curriculum.
  • Stephen A. Pennell, PhD, Mathematical Sciences, UMass Lowell’s Center for Wind Energy, who has won numerous teaching awards since joining the faculty in 1982.  These include the department’s teaching award and the Student Government Exceeding Expectations Award, each of which he won four times.  His commitment to the UML community includes four years as director of the Honors College, six years as chair of the department, and faculty advisor to both Omricron Delta Kappa, UML’s leadership honor society; and Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society.
  • Susan Zup, PhD, Psychology, who recently completed the tenure review process at UMass Boston.  During the review process, Zup received an outpouring of positive feedback from students who praised her enthusiasm, passion and accessibility as well as for way she challenged and supported them.  Outside of the classroom, she mentored students through the McNair Program, the Baccalaureate to Bridges Program, undergraduate thesis preparation and professional skill development for PhD candidates.





Pam Jonah