In recognition of her extraordinary contributions to U-M undergraduate education, Deirdre Leong De la Cruz, Associate Professor of Asian Language and Cultures, and of History, joins four other faculty in being named Athur F. Thurnau Professors, the Board of Regents announced on Thursday, Friday 15, 2024.. Professor de la Cruz will hold the Thurnau title for the duration of her career and will receive $20,000 to support activities that further enhance her teaching.

The Thurnau Professorships are named after Arthur F. Thurnau, a student at the University of Michigan from 1902 to 1904, and are supported by the Thurnau Charitable Trust that was established through his will. To become a Thurnau professor, faculty members must demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and learning, excellence and innovation in teaching, and dedication to working effectively with a diverse student body. They also must have made an impact on students’ intellectual or artistic development and on their lives, and contributed to undergraduate education in ways that extend beyond the classroom, studio, or lab.

At Michigan, Professor De la Cruz has created new and engaging courses in both history and in Asian languages and cultures that are anchored in her deep expertise in the history of the Philippines, religion, and U.S. colonialism. 

She also pushed Asian languages and cultures beyond the department’s traditional focus on language and literature, opening a truly interdisciplinary and exciting teaching space. In 2022, Professor De la Cruz and Ricky Punzalan, Associate Professor of Information, launched with U-M students the "Reconnect/Recollect" project aimed at decolonizing the university’s vast Philippine collections. With a $500,000 grant from U-M, the initiative worked with Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, Special Collections Research Center, and Museum of Anthropological Archaeology to create recommendations for representing Philippine collections held by various campus units.

Through her extraordinary scholarship, teaching, mentorship, and service, Professor De la Cruz has been “a compass for personal, academic, and professional journeys” for her students.

Congratulations to Professor De la Cruz on this momentous achievement.