On an average day College of Arts and Sciences Dean Edward L. Ayers is not usually the center of media attention. But yesterday was no ordinary day. Along with three other professors, Ayers was awarded the nation's top teaching honor from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He was named the 2003 U.S. Professor of the Year at doctoral and research universities. The U.S. Professors of the Year program has been recognizing dedication to undergraduate education since 1981. According to the CASE Website, "It is the only national program to recognize college and university professors for their teaching skills." Ayers, who has taught at the University since 1980, has won numerous University and state accolades, including an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education. In interviews yesterday, Ayers sang the praises of the institution where he has made his career as one of the nation's foremost educators. "I just happened to land in a place I love," Ayers told an NBC Channel 29 reporter. "I was never tempted to leave." Ayers originally came to the University because it was "the only job in the U.S. in my field," he said. "One reason I worked so hard is I realized how close I came to not being here," Ayers added. While continuing as professor of an undergraduate course in the Fall and a graduate class in the Spring, Ayers has served as College dean since 2001. Despite his successes as author, professor and dean, Ayers said he felt "undeserving" of his most recent award. "I'm happy for the University and for the History Department," he said. "I feel sheepish being singled out this way -- but grateful." See tomorrow's paper for a profile of Ayers.