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Chair of Contemporary Civilization Patricia Kitcher wins Society of Columbia Graduates’ 2017 Great Teacher Award

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Patricia Kitcher, the Roberta and William Campbell Professor of the Humanities and the Carnoy Family Program Chair for Contemporary Civilization, is the Columbia College faculty winner of the Society of Columbia Graduates’ 2017 Great Teacher Award.

The awards, given annually to an outstanding professor from Columbia College and Columbia Engineering respectively, are granted based on professors’ abilities to stimulate, challenge and inspire students; for their ability to make effective oral presentations; for their demonstrated interest in students and the ability to relate positively to students outside the classroom; and for their recognized standing in their respective academic disciplines. Recipients have their names inscribed on a plaque under the Teaching Lion, a sculpture by Stanley Wyatt CC’43, GSAS’47, in Butler Library.

Kitcher said she is pleased to get the award, but that there are many other deserving faculty members, as well.

“I've tried to contribute to the education of Columbia College students through teaching CC [Contemporary Civilization] and Kant, and other courses,” she said. “But many other faculty teach courses that impart intellectual skills that are pretty essential for getting by in the world we now face.”

Aside from teaching undergraduate philosophy courses, Kitcher teaches Contemporary Civilization, a Core course taken during sophomore year with the goal of introducing students to a range of issues concerning the types of communities that human beings construct for themselves and the values that inform and define them. She also provides guidance to Contemporary Civilization instructors in her role as chair of the course, and for many years prior to assuming this role gave presentations to Contemporary Civilization instructors about how to teach Kant’s essential but difficult text, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.

“Pat’s dedication to supporting young scholars in Contemporary Civilization is remarkable. As chair of Contemporary Civilization, she has mentored a cohort of remarkable graduate student instructors and has made their success her number one priority,” said Roosevelt Montas CC’96, GSAS’04, director of the Center for the Core Curriculum and associate dean of Academic Planning and Administration. “Principled, rigorous, and kind, her influence has made Contemporary Civilization an even stronger course."

Kitcher received a B.A. from Wellesley in 1970 and a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1974, both in philosophy; has taught at the University of Vermont, the University of Minnesota and the University of California, San Diego; and was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin. She specializes in Kant’s theory of the knowing subject and his theory of ethics.

The Society of Columbia Graduates was formed 107 years ago and established the Great Teacher Awards, presented over Reunion Weekend, in 1949. Past recipients have included illustrious professors including Lionel Trilling CC’25, Mark van Doren GSAS’21, Moses Hadas GSAS’30, Elmer Gaden SEAS’49, Gerard Ateshian SEAS’91, Kenneth Jackson, Mario Salvadori, Mort Friedman, Kathy Eden, Donald Goldfarb, Hilary Ballon and David Helfand, among others.

Kitcher, along with fellow awardee Jay Sethuraman, professor of industrial engineering and operations research, will be honored at a ceremony at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, in Low Library’s Faculty Room.