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Sturgill Award, Kirwan Prize Given to Outstanding Faculty

By Whitney Harder

(April 16, 2015) — Recognizing their outstanding contributions to teaching and scholarship at the University of Kentucky, two UK faculty members were honored with the William B. Sturgill Award and Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize yesterday, Wednesday, April 15, at the annual Faculty Awards Ceremony in the Lexmark Room of the Main Building.

Thomas R. Zentall, professor of psychology in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, was awarded the 2015 William B. Sturgill Award, given each year to a graduate faculty member who has provided outstanding contributions to graduate education at UK.

Gang Cao, professor of physics in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, received the 2015 Albert D. and Elizabeth H. Kirwan Memorial Prize, given each year to a faculty member in recognition of outstanding contributions to original research or scholarship.

Thomas R. Zentall

In his 39 years at UK, Zentall has served as both acting chair and director of graduate studies in the Department of Psychology, and member of the University Senate as well as the Graduate Council, among other positions. Zentall has mentored more than 25 master's and doctoral students and currently leads a team of five graduate students in his research lab, the Comparative Cognition Laboratory.

Active in conferences relevant to the domain of comparative cognition, Zentall and his students have had a large presence in the field for many years.

Through his activity in research and conferences, and the collaborations and connections that have formed as a result, Zentall has influenced not only his own graduate students at UK, but others throughout the field.

The Sturgill Award is named in honor of William B. Sturgill, who contributed to higher education in Kentucky through his gifts and service.

Sturgill, who died in 2014, was born in Lackey, Kentucky, and graduated from UK in 1946. He was involved in a variety of businesses, including executive and owner of several coal operations, East Kentucky Investment Company, Fourth Street and Gentry Tobacco Warehouses, and the Hartland Development Project. Sturgill served as both secretary of energy and secretary of agriculture under Gov. John Y. Brown Jr.  He served 18 years on UK's Board of Trustees, including serving as chair for 10 years. The Sturgill Development Building is named in his honor.

Gang Cao

Gang Cao joined UK faculty in 2002 and is currently the Jack and Linda Gill Eminent Professor and director of the Center for Advanced Materials, a comprehensive, multidisciplinary and transformative research program to investigate novel electronic materials.

Cao is a 2009-2010 University Research Professor and Fellow of the American Physical Society. His research interests include the discovery and study of novel electronic materials; single-crystal synthesis; physics of complex oxides and chalcogenides; and high-field, low-temperature, and high-pressure material properties.

The Kirwan Memorial Prize recognizes its namesakes' collaborative research efforts, as well as Albert Kirwan's endeavors at creating an environment at UK that promoted high quality research and scholarship.

Head football coach from 1938 to 1944 and later dean of men, "Ab" Kirwan was a distinguished faculty member and scholar in the field of southern history, dean of the Graduate School, and served as UK president from 1968 to 1970.

Elizabeth Kirwan was awarded the Sullivan Medallion in 1973 for her service to UK and the Lexington community. Her service included executive roles in more than 10 organizations, including president of the UK Woman’s Club and chairwoman of Lexington Parks and Recreation Board.