For decades, Yale University Professors Marie Borroff and Louis Dupre have made students as interested in the subjects they teach as they are. For that quality and others, both were honored with this year's William Clyde DeVane Medals -- the highest award for teaching in Yale College -- presented by the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
The awards were given to Professors Borroff and Dupre at a Phi Beta Kappa dinner on March 4. Each year, graduate members of the chapter elect a retired professor, and undergraduate members name an active member of the faculty for the honor. Fred C. Robinson, the Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of English, presented the award to Professor Borroff, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English. Mr. Dupre, the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of Religious Studies, was given his award by Vishal Agrawal '96, chapter undergraduate president. Frank M. Turner, John Hay Whitney Professor of History and graduate president of Yale's chapter, was master of ceremonies.
Professor Borroff, who came to Yale in 1960 and was the first woman named a professor of English in 1965, taught English literature and poetry ranging from pre-medieval to modern times. She has authored many articles and books, including translations of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "Pearl," and a study of the poets Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and Marianne Moore. In addition, she edited a collection of critical essays on Wallace Stevens and is a published poet. During her 34 years at Yale, she held numerous administrative posts and committee memberships and was counselor to the Yale Presidential Search Committee 1992-93. She is a former president of the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
In presenting Ms. Borroff with her Medal, Mr. Robinson noted her many accomplishments as a scholar, a teacher, a poet -- and a pianist. "The performer and the producer, the teacher and the scholar, co-exist in her in happy harmony," said Mr. Robinson. He went on to describe a recent talkon Chaucer that Ms. Borroff presented: "She gave us a spell-binding, original, deeply learned, beautifully organized chat. That's what it was: the most casually delivered, seemingly off-the-top-of-her-head, spontaneous chat which somehow fell together as tightly and logically and beautifully as one of her exquisite poems. The insights and discoveries seemed to be taking place as she talked. She performs scholarship and learning as gracefully as she performs a composition by Mozart."
Professor Dupre, a native of Belgium, is considered one of today's preeminent Catholic philosophers of religion. He joined the Yale faculty in 1973. He has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including "Contraception and Catholics," "The Philosophical Foundations of Marxism," "The Other Dimension," "Transcendent Selfhood" and "Metaphysics and Culture." He has served as president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association and the Hegel Society of America.
Quoting from Professor Dupre's former and current students, Mr. Agrawal noted the philosopher's sensitivity to his students, his high standards, his approachability and his dedication to teaching:
"Professor Dupre approaches teaching with the same fervor that has fired his own education and scholarship," said Mr. Agrawal. "When asked to reflect upon his almost 40 years of teaching, he replies that it is 'amazing to be paid for doing what I like to do.' And in doing what he likes, excitement emanates from the podium. Students have called him a 'mesmerizing teacher' who 'speaks from the heart.' He is uniformly praised for his ability to impart his passion for the subject matter."
At the ceremony, the featured speaker was Guido Calabresi, former dean of the Yale Law School and now judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. John Hollander, Sterling Professor of English, read "X's Syndrome," a poem he wrote for the occasion which will be published later this year in what is expected to be a series of original poems commissioned by the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
The William Clyde DeVane Medals have been conferred annually by the Yale Phi Beta Kappa chapter since 1966 for distinguished scholarship and undergraduate teaching. The medal is named for a former dean of Yale College who served in that post from 1938-63, was a longtime president of the Yale chapter, and a president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa.