Professor Michael Berch of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law was honored by the ASU Parents Association at the 12th annual Celebration of Teaching and Learning Excellence on Monday, April 14. Berch, a long-time law professor, was among 30 faculty members at ASU who were nominated for the 2008 Professor of the Year award. He was nominated by Brent Roam, a third-year law student, who in his nomination letter offered a descriptive, entertaining recounting of Berch's presentation last April at ASU's Last Lecture Series. "Professor Michael Berch, counsel for the defense, paced nervously at the back of the courtroom," Roam wrote. "Berch's long, pale fingers shot out of his navy blue blazer, creasing the notes he would use for his final plea. A thick shock of frizzy red hair stood in a permanent explosion on top of his narrow white skull. His eyes, sunk in their sockets, gleamed and crackled with anticipation as he watched the jury file in and take their seats. Slightly hunched, rail thin, with a raspy cough and sharp, violent features, Professor Berch looked like a man possessed. And tonight he was." The lecture to which Roam referred focused on whether legal method and processes and the rules of law they produce function accountably or whether the rules vary, depending on factors such as race, wealth, accidents of birth and luck. Berch's presentation, A Defense Plea for Leniency at the Mitigation Hearing - State v. Raskolnikov, had a theatrical flair, with the professor creating a summation based on the trial of Rodya Raskolnikov, the central character in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. The passion, urgency and intensity with which Berch delivered that lecture was always recreated in his classroom, Roam said in his letter. "His performance that night was not anomalous," he wrote. "He sleeps, dreams, eats, and breathes for his students. His lust for learning is insatiable, and the joy and energy he brings to the classroom is boundless and, thankfully, contagious. "He's the real McCoy, a character of legendary proportions. He's loud, he's brash, he's vain at times, but he is pure gold. No one cares more for this school and these students than Professor Michael Berch." A selection committee of the ASU Parents Association named English Education Professor James Blasingame the 2008 Professor of the Year Award. In remarks to an audience of about 200 people at Old Main, Elizabeth D. Capaldi, University Provost and Executive Vice President, said the 30 nominees were "all fantastic." Amy Ostrom, a marketing professor in the W.P. Carey School of Business and the 2007 Professor of the Year, said teaching offers many rewards, from seeing indifferent students become passionate to watching them become successful. "Teaching is really a privilege, as is being a part of this transformative journey that students are on while they are at ASU," Ostrom said. To read Roam's nomination letter, click here. To view Professor Berch's videotaped interview in support of his nomination, click here.