Pride of the Lions
Columbia’s faculty distinguish themselves as teachers, researchers, scholars
The business of college is knowledge: the transmission of knowledge through teaching, the advancement of knowledge through research and scholarship. Responsibility for both resides with a college’s faculty. They occupy the lecture halls, seminar rooms and labs, encouraging critical thinking in students while simultaneously pursuing their own ideas and investigations.
Columbia College has a history of great teachers, many of whom earned renown beyond Morningside Heights and whose names still pepper the remembrances of older alumni: Mark Van Doren ’21 GSAS; Lionel Trilling ’25, ’38 GSAS; James P. Shenton ’49, ’54 GSAS; I.I. Rabi ’27 GSAS. And then of course there is Jacques Barzun ’27, ’32 GSAS, one of the greatest, who passed away in October at 104.
Barzun’s insights on teaching could fill a book, as the saying goes. And in fact they did. More than one. In 1945’s Teacher in America, he wrote, “Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. Hence tomorrow’s problem will not be to get teachers, but to recognize the good ones and not discourage them before they have done their stint.”
And so this special section aims to recognize professors for all the hats they wear, beginning with a focus on four who can claim more than 50 years each with Columbia: chemist Ronald Breslow; geoscientist Wallace Broecker ’53, ’58 GSAS; philosopher David Sidorsky ’62 GSAS; and psychologist Herbert Terrace. Other profiles spotlight the remarkable and diverse careers of historian Eric Foner ’63, ’69 GSAS; filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner; and drug research scientist Carl Hart.
As noteworthy as they are, these professors only begin to suggest the range of expertise and achievements that characterize Columbia’s educators as a whole. The faculty of Arts and Sciences totals more than 600. They instruct students in the Core Curriculum as well as in 143 majors, concentrations and special concentrations. They win internationally recognized awards and fellowships — Nobels, Pulitzers, MacArthurs, Guggenheims — and they earn the highest honors given by peers within their fields.
One professor observed recently of his routine, “Days are long. Nights can be even longer.” The statement stands as a testament to the energy and commitment that also, importantly, characterize the College faculty.
We celebrate and thank them all.
Alexis Tonti ’11 Arts