This past week Wesleyan held a dinner in New York to celebrate the creation of the Zilkha Chair in the College of Social Studies. Professor Donald Moon, who has been inspiring students in Government and CSS for decades, will hold the chair. Don is a political theorist who has had a particular focus on community building and diversity, and he has contributed to recent efforts to develop a reformulation of liberalism. The Zilkha family has had three generations of students at Wesleyan, and their generosity contributes to our ability to continue to educate and challenge students interested in philosophy, history, economics and political science.
We celebrate great teaching through endowed chairs, and we also celebrate it with the Binswanger Prize. For almost 15 years we have received nominations from students and recent alumni to honor outstanding work in the classroom. The Binswanger family, too, has had generations of students here at Wesleyan, and with their help we pay homage to those who help create transformative experiences for our undergraduates. Lucidity and passion are among the qualities we look for, and you can learn more about the prize at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/alumni/binswanger/
I have been thinking a lot about teaching over the break between semesters, as I try to find time to prepare the course I am about to teach. Although I have given the class for many years, I find myself often in Wesleyan’s magnificent library to check out recent scholarship or older works on philosophy, film and history that I may have missed in the past. I see my faculty colleagues hard at work doing similar kinds of reading and research. Although I have been teaching for more than 25 years, at the beginning of each term I have butterflies of nervousness and excitement. The anticipation of working with our gifted and hard-working students is tremendous.
I am finishing this post as Martin Luther King Day comes to a close. Perhaps it is fitting to end with two quotes from Dr. King (Brainyquote.com). When reading them, I thought about the professors I’ve known here who continue their efforts with “painstaking excellence,” and who now probably share my anticipation (and butterflies).
All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education