The Alexander Prize is named for former UT president and now Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and his wife, Honey. It recognizes superior classroom teaching and distinguished scholarship. The Alexander Prize is awarded to a faculty member who exhibits excellence in teaching and research.
Gary McCracken, James R. Cox Professor and head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is one of the world’s leading experts on bats. He is at the forefront of research into fighting White Nose Syndrome, a fungal disease that is sweeping through bat colonies across North America—including Tennessee—and killing bats by the tens of thousands. The conservation biologist and evolutionary ecologist also is nationally and internationally known as an expert on the economic impact of bats on agricultural systems. McCracken brings his passion for science and conservation into the classroom as well. He created two new undergraduate courses, Conservation Biology and Evolution and Society, to bring critical biological and policy issues before students. McCracken has been highly successful in securing funding to support his research. He has brought more than $6 million to the university from agencies including the National Science Foundation, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Geological Service. The money has supported his work, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral students. He publishes prolifically and his work has appeared in the top journals in his field. McCracken has been a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 2009. The North American Society for Bat Research also recognized his work with its most important award.