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.
As a Columbia undergraduate, Barzun served as drama critic of the Spectator, editor of Varsity (the literary magazine), and president of the Philolexian Society. Immediately upon graduation he was appointed an instructor in the history department, and became full professor in 1945, Seth Low Professor of History in 1960, and University Professor in 1967. Barzun taught CC right from the start of his career, and in 1932 he was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Colloquium on Important Books, which he taught once with Lionel Trilling. He later helped establish Humanities A and taught the course regularly.
No less significant are Barzun's many administrative accomplishments, above all as Dean of Graduate Faculties and Provost. Despite these added burdens, Barzun always continued to teach-and to write. The author of many books on a wide variety of topics, Barzun is perhaps best known to students for his Modern Researcher (1957), now in its fifth edition, and to teachers for The American University (1968).
Barzun's commitment to the College never wavered. Even after retiring from the University in 1975, he has continued to defend the core curriculum and to speak out against declines in academic standards. As one former Columbia graduate student remarked, Jacques Barzun was known for "prestige, authority and self-confidence" and for "his unapologetic insistence upon excellence."