In 1965, the Faculty Senate of the University of Mississippi proposed to Chancellor J. D. Williams a program of recognition and awards for superior teaching. The Chancellor agreed, and a selection committee of faculty representing the various Schools and College was elected by the University faculty in the fall of 1965. In the spring of 1966, the committee solicited nominations for an Outstanding Teacher Award from faculty, students, and alumni, requesting from nominators "a supporting statement not to exceed 500 words." Vice Chancellor W. Alton Bryant suggested that the award be presented on Honors Day and announced during Commencement exercises, and this has remained the policy to this day. The initial award was for $500, and was presented to German professor William Eickhorst in 1966.
Currently, the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher award is sponsored by the family of Elsie M. Hood, the Alumni Association, and the Chancellor's Office. Assistant, associate, and full professors are eligible, except for previous recipients. The selection committee is composed of eight previous recipients, along with the director of Alumni Affairs and a student representative. The committee looks for nominating letters that describe examples of inspirational teaching, and also considers letters that have been submitted for the nominees in previous years. In addition to the monetary prize, which now stands at $5,000, the recipient of the award receives a personal plaque, and his or her name is engraved on a permanent plaque in the Chancellor's office.