Mark Conger, a lecturer in the LSA Comprehensive Studies Program, has been selected to receive this year’s Golden Apple Award in recognition of his outstanding commitment to students.

The Golden Apple Award annually honors one University of Michigan faculty member for outstanding teaching, and is the only teaching award at U-M given by students.

“A lot of the students that had (Conger) wrote very glowing reviews,” said Kyle Riebock, the Golden Apple Committee president and a School of Education junior. “It was very evident he deserved it.”

At U-M, Conger teaches mathematics courses. He also develops and teaches the Douglass Houghton Scholars Program, an enrichment program for calculus students. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Williams College and his Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. in the same subject from U-M.

The committee surprised Conger with the award during a class at North Quad on Wednesday.

Photo of Mark Conger during the surprise presentation of the Golden Apple Award
Mark Conger (left), a lecturer in the LSA Comprehensive Studies Program, was given the 2019 Golden Apple Award on Wednesday in a surprise presentation at North Quad. (Photo by Steve Culver, The University Record)

“I don’t know what to say,” Conger said after learning of the recognition. “Thank you everybody.”

In nominations, one student wrote how Conger spends countless hours helping students at his office hours, adding that he is always there for students in need of emotional support and compassion. Another student wrote that Conger is an “amazing professor” who cares if students understand classroom topics and really wants students to succeed.

“The work that you do on a daily basis from about six in the morning to about 10 at night for these students, unselfishly making their lives so much better, is so empowering,” Harold Waters, Comprehensive Studies Program director, said at the surprise event. “I really appreciate your work.”

Golden Apple recipients are charged each year with giving a lecture as if it’s their last. The award was originally inspired by teacher Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkanos, who taught others to “get your life in order one day before you die.”

Conger’s lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 8 at Rackham Auditorium.

LSA senior Linh Le said she took Conger’s math courses as a freshman and noted his patience and dedication to spending hours to help students.

Le said early in her college career, she struggled with determining her major and plans for her future. Learning about Conger’s journey to figure out his path in life inspired her and showed her it was OK to not immediately have her future planned out.

Le now studies math and computer science.

“As a girl studying math and computer science, I often doubt myself,” Le said. “Just having him there as a support is really meaningful.”

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