Of the many titles Joseph A. “Joe” Pratt carries — professor, historian, researcher, scholar, writer — he is proudest of another title: teacher.
Pratt, the University of Houston National Endowment for the Humanities and Cullen Professor of History and Business, has been awarded the 2014 Piper Professor Award from the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation. The prestigious honor recognizes superior teaching at the college level in Texas.
“I felt called to teach, and I have never doubted that I found my true calling,” he said.
Participation in the Piper Award Nominations is by invitation only. Candidates must be nominated through their university president’s office. Only one nomination from an institution may be submitted in the nomination year. The award carries a $5,000 honorarium.
“We were pleased to be able to nominate someone of Professor Pratt’s high caliber and gratified that he has been recognized with this prestigious award,” said Renu Khator, UH System chancellor and UH president.
Pratt has been teaching for 38 years, 28 of those at UH. In a career that has spanned two disciplines, business and history, Pratt has taught small graduate-level seminars and embraced the crowded survey courses that attract up to 500 underclassmen. His dedication to student success is evident in five UH teaching awards, participation on more than 30 Ph.D. committees, selection as chair of the history department and an interim dean appointment to the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Pratt is the director of the Energy and Sustainability minor at UH, a program he created. He says the most fulfilling job he’s ever had was as director of the UH Scholars’ Community, a freshman retention program in the late 1990s, which he created.
“We helped students learn to succeed in college with a heavy dose of personal responsibility mixed with assurances that if they needed help, we would provide it,” he said.
The author of a dozen books and numerous articles, Pratt serves as director of the Welcome Wilson Houston History Collaborative (formerly the Houston History Project). He oversees the UH Oral History of Houston, the UH Houston History Archives, the UH Memories Documentary Films and The Houston History Magazine.
“Not only was he an exceptional teaching professor, but he was a model for me and many others as we sought to develop our own academic teaching styles,” said Dr. William H. Kellar, historian and former student of Pratt.
Each year, the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation chooses 10 outstanding Texas educators for this honor. Pratt is the 11th professor from UH to receive this honor. A UH professor has received the honor for three consecutive years.