The Southeastern Conference on Thursday announced the winner of its 2013 SEC Professor of the Year Award, Dr. Harry McSween, Chancellor’s Professor and Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Hap” McSween is a world-renowned scientist with numerous national and international awards to his credit. He is namesake for asteroid 5223 McSween, an honor bestowed on him by the International Astronomical Union, and has been described as the most important meteorite researcher alive today. He also is arguably the world’s foremost expert on the composition of Mars.

“Dr. McSween has been a part of the University of Tennessee family for 35 years, and has made extraordinary contributions in the classroom and to the world of science,” said Dr. Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “We are so proud of Dr. McSween’s dedication and commitment, and we are pleased he is receiving this unique recognition from the SEC.”

For more than three decades, NASA has funded Dr. McSween’s research on meteorites. He is co-investigator for the Mars Odyssey spacecraft mission, which is mapping the mineralogy and geochemistry of the Martian surface from orbit; the Mars Exploration Rovers, which have analyzed rocks and soils at two landing sites; and the Dawn spacecraft mission, which began orbiting asteroid Vesta in 2011 and will subsequently explore Ceres, the largest asteroid in our solar system.

University of Tennessee students named him the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences best teacher six times, and the University awarded him the Alexander Prize, which recognizes excellence in teaching and research. He has been a lecturer for the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Sciences, mentor in the University of Tennessee’s Graduate Teaching Assistants Mentoring program, and tutor for a number of College Scholars and visiting international students.

“Dr. McSween is an exceptional professor and the University of Tennessee should be proud that he has been chosen to receive this honor,” said Dr. Jay Gogue, President of Auburn University and President of the Southeastern Conference. “I congratulate and thank him for his contributions to UT and the Southeastern Conference.”

The SEC Professor of the Year Award goes to one SEC faculty member whose record in research and scholarship places him or her among the elite in higher education. This individual must first win the university’s SEC Faculty Achievement Award in order to be eligible for the top award. In recognition of the honor, the SEC will provide the Professor of the Year with a $20,000 honorarium and formal acknowledgement during its annual awards dinner in Destin, Fla.

“Dr. McSween exemplifies excellence in and out of the classroom,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “His passion for science can be seen in his commitment to his students and in his research. The SEC is pleased to bestow this award on him and I congratulate and thank Dr. McSween and the University of Tennessee for their contributions to the Conference.”

Chosen by a selection committee of SEC Provosts, the SEC Faculty Achievement Awards and the SEC Professor of the Year Award are part of a set of non-athletically related activities the Southeastern Conference has undertaken through its SECU academic initiative to encourage academic leadership and collaboration within the SEC membership.