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Faculty Profiles

John J. Coss


John J. Coss

No Columbia faculty member had a greater influence on the course in Contemporary Civilization in its first decades than John J. Coss. A confidant of John Dewey and Nicholas Murray Butler, Coss was an original member of the committee drafting the CC syllabus. As the first director of CC, he guided the course through its infancy and helped the staff develop a unique esprit de corps; as a teacher, he became a model for two generations of staff... [more]

Irwin Edman


Irwin Edman

A true man of the world, the philosopher Irwin Edman was once described by a colleague as "a blend of Plato, Santyana, and Manhattan-with a dash of Dewey." Certainly Columbia was in Edman's blood. Born in Morningside Heights, he stayed home to attend the College. Shortly after entering the Columbia Graduate School he became an instructor in the philosophy department, and remained a powerful presence on campus until his untimely death in 1954... [more]

Herbert E. Hawkes


Herbert E. Hawkes

At the end of his long career, Herbert E. Hawkes was hailed as "the dean of American college deans." At the College, however, he was also known for his steadfast support of the College's core curriculum, which he helped inaugurate. He never taught in the program, but the core curriculum could never have prospered without his commitment to the idea of general education... [more]

John Erskine


John Erskine

As both a student and teacher, John Erskine's association with Columbia spanned nearly forty years. It was Erskine's conception of a General Honors course in classic texts that spawned the Colloquium on Important Books and later Humanities A. Although he never taught in a freshman core course, Erskine's influence on general education courses extended beyond the College to affect all of American education... [more]

James Gutmann


James Gutmann

James Gutmann graduated from Columbia College in 1918, one year too early to be able to take the Contemporary Civilization course as a student. But as a teacher, Gutmann was inseparable from Columbia's general education courses, teaching CC and later Humanities throughout his long career at the College... [more]

Harry Carman


Harry Carman

Many associate Harry Carman so strongly with the deanship of Columbia College that they forget he had been a pivotal influence at the College since the 1920s. Described as "one of the best loved and best known teachers of his generation," Carman became a mainstay of the history department, a staunch supporter of the Contemporary Civilization course, and a champion of the College within the University... [more]

Mark Van Doren


Mark Van Doren

Of all the stars in the long line of distinguished teachers at Columbia College, none have shone more brightly than Mark Van Doren. Nationally famous as a novelist, playwright, critic, editor, and poet (his Collected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940), at the College Van Doren is also remembered as the quintessential great teacher. In his nearly four decades at Columbia, Van Doren introduced generations to Western literature and became a trusted friend and advisor to students and fellow teachers... [more]

Moses Hadas


Moses Hadas

Although he was known as a quiet, even shy man, Moses Hadas made his presence felt at the College as a prolific scholar and as one of the College's truly great teachers. A classicist by training, he began teaching as an instructor in the General Honors course in 1925, and except for brief service in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, he stayed at Columbia for the rest of his career, remaining one of the College's most sought-after teachers until his death in 1966... [more]

Dwight Miner


Dwight Miner

In September 1922, Dwight Miner entered Columbia College's freshman class. In June 1973, he retired as one of the College's most famous professors. Along the way, Miner quite happily became completely identified with the institution, earning the sobriquet "Mr. Columbia"... [more]

Lionel Trilling


Lionel Trilling

If Mark Van Doren was Columbia's most famous author, then Lionel Trilling was certainly its most famous critic. One of the most public of this century's public intellectuals, Trilling became nationally known for both his scholarship and his literary criticism, which appealed to a wide audience. At Columbia, however, Trilling was also recognized as a gifted and dedicated teacher with a special commitment to undergraduate education... [more]

Gilbert Highet


Gilbert Highet

Columbia College cannot take credit for the genius of the classicist Gilbert Highet. Born in Glasgow and educated at St. John's College, Oxford University, Highet was said to embody "the best of the Scottish and Oxford traditions" in classical learning, which he imparted to generations of Columbia College students. Although he was not at Columbia when Humanities A was created, once he arrived Highet became an enthusiastic supporter of the course and of general education... [more]

Jacques Barzun


Jacques Barzun

In more than half a century of service, Jacques Barzun distinguished himself not only as one of Columbia's most outstanding professors but also in a wide variety of delicate administrative positions. A prolific author for both the specialist and the general reader, Barzun has served as an example of the potential of liberal education within the University and without... [more]




Profiles of Some Distinguished Contemporary Faculty (1995)