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Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek celebrated faculty, staff, and students for their accomplishments and service Tuesday at the annual Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. The banquet is the university’s largest recognition event of the year.

The following professors received the evening’s top faculty awards:

Macebearer: Soren Sorensen

Soren Sorensen
Soren Sorensen

Professor of Physics Soren Sorensen was named UT’s Macebearer, the highest faculty honor. Sorensen joined the faculty thirty-one years ago and has held a research affiliation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory for thirty-four years. An experimental nuclear physicist, he has published 240 referred papers and been cited more than 14,000 times.

Sorensen served as head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy for twelve years. His leadership helped to grow enrollment and increase the department’s research and scholarship activity. He also cultivated a nurturing, diverse, and inclusive work environment and led efforts to professionalize operations.

He currently chairs UT’s Strategies and Tactics for Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence committee, which shares important research about bias and diversity with the campus community.

Macebearers lead the faculty during commencement ceremonies and carry UT’s ceremonial mace for a full academic year in recognition of their achievement.

 Alexander Prize: Geoff Greene

Geoff Greene
Geoff Greene

Geoff Greene, professor of experimental neutron physics and ORNL Fundamental Neutron Physics Group leader, was given the Alexander Prize for superior teaching and distinguished scholarship.

Greene’s scientific program at ORNL’s Fundamental Neutron Physics Beam is focused on the essential questions about the universe’s existence: what happened in the Big Bang and why does matter behave in ways that defy understanding?

Greene also is a member of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee, tasked with preparing the country for nuclear physics advances in the coming years. The committee advises the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

The Alexander Prize is named for former UT president U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey.

Jefferson Prize: Charles Sanft

Charles Sanft
Charles Sanft

Associate Professor of History Charles Sanft received the Jefferson Prize for helping to put UT on the map in the field of Chinese history.

His research shows how imperial leaders used communication to win the allegiance and enlist the support of common people across a vast territory.

He has published “Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China,” a detailed study with the SUNY Press Chinese Philosophy and Culture Series. He currently is working on a second book, which addresses literacy in early China.

He is a leader and mentor in the history department and has led workshops for colleagues on teaching techniques and new uses of technology. He also is working to develop a program for students to study in China.

The Jefferson Prize honors a tenured or tenure-track faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in research and creative activity. It was made possible by an anonymous donor to honor the principles of the third U.S. president.

L.R. Hesler Award: Lee Han

Lee Han, professor of civil and environmental engineering and an Oak Ridge National Lab collaborating scientist, is the 2016 recipient of the LR Hesler Award, a Chancellor's Honors Award.
Lee Han

A professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Collaborating Scientist with UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lee Han studies traffic safety, infrastructure, and laws. He received the L.R. Hesler Award.

In the past decade alone, Han’s research has accounted for more than $10 million in funding. One of his key areas of research is on the use of red-light cameras, including whether they improve safety, and how municipalities can misuse them to generate revenue.

Han is known for his upbeat demeanor, the humor he brings to the classroom, and his ability to attract and inspire students. He is valued as a mentor by students, and even prospective students are familiar with his work. The all-conditions driving simulator he uses is a hit among visiting high school students and at College of Engineering events.

The L.R. Hesler Award is named for a longtime head of the botany department who also served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Hesler’s students, colleagues and friends established the award as a memorial that recognizes exceptional teaching and service.

The full list of all faculty, staff and student awards is available online.


Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365,