Ruth and Joel Spira Excellence in Teaching Mathematics Awards

These awards are made possible by a generous donation by Ruth and Joel Spira and have been established for excellence in mathematics teaching at Purdue.


Nominations of mathematics faculty can be made via the Spira Award nomination form.


  • Steve Bell: Excellence in Graduate Teaching 
  • David Norris: Excellence in Undergraduate Service Teaching 
  • Thomas Sinclair: Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring and Undergraduate Teaching 
  • Bernd Ulrich: Excellence in Graduate Mentoring and Graduate Teaching

Past Spira award winners


  • Donu Arapura: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Graduate Service Teaching
  • Giulio Caviglia: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Graduate Service Teaching
  • Philip Mummert: Excellence in Undergraduate Service Teaching and Administrative Support
  • Freydoon Shahidi: Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring


  • Kiril Datchev: Excellence in undergraduate teaching
  • Huimei Delgado: Excellence in undergraduate service teaching
  • Dominic Naughton: Excellence in calculus teaching and TA training
  • Jonathon Peterson: Excellence in graduate teaching


  • Johnny Brown: for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Edinah Gnang: for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Daniel Kelleher: for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Rodrigo Bañuelos: for Excellence in Mentoring and Graduate Teaching


  • Tim Delworth: Excellence in Undergraduate Service Teaching
  • Veronica Quitalo: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Priyam Patel: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Ralph Kaufmann: Excellence in Graduate Mentoring and Graduate Teaching


  • Zhilan Feng: Excellence in Graduate Teaching
  • Rachael Kenney: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • Uli Walther: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching


  • E. Lundberg: Excellence in Teaching by a Junior Faculty Member
  • L. Lipshitz: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • J. Beckley: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • B. McReynolds: Excellence in Graduate Teaching


  • N. Garofalo: Excellence in Graduate Level Teaching
  • K. Matsuki: Excellence in Undergraduate Service Teaching
  • J. McClure: Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching
  • A. Weitsman: Excellence in Graduate Service Teaching


  • D. Danielli: Graduate Teaching
  • E. Goins: Mentoring and Undergraduate Teaching
  • J. Chen: Elementary Service Teaching
  • B. Kaufmann: Advanced Service Teaching


  • G. Buzzard: Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching
  • A. Petrosyan: Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching
  • B. Ulrich: Outstanding Graduate Teaching
  • D. Xiu: Outstanding Teaching by a Junior Faculty Member


  • S. Bell: Undergraduate Service Teaching
  • A. Yip: Graduate Service Teaching


  • G. Buzzard: Outstanding Undergraduate Course Teacher
  • L. Lempert: Outstanding Graduate Course Teacher
  • E.C. Zachmanoglou: Outstanding Calculus Lecturer

About Joel Spira

Joel S. Spira received a B.S. in Physics from Purdue in 1948. In 1961, he started Lutron Electronics, a privately held company that initially made light dimmers. Joel's insight into technology and manufacturing enabled him to build Lutron into a dominant force in the dimmer market. He pioneered the concept of mass customization in which customized dimmers could be produced at mass production costs. Joel was early to integrate semiconductor intelligence into his products. Today, Lutron offers sophisticated dimmers in several thousand product variations.

In 1998, Joel Spira was chosen for the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Purdue College of Science.

Joel's commitment to excellence was not confined to his business. In 1988, he established an annual award of $1,000 for teaching excellence in the Department of Physics at Purdue at the same time that he set up similar awards at schools all over the country. 

Joel Spira, founder, Chairman, and Director of Research of Lutron Electronics, passed away on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.