Borroff, Kagan, Lamar, and Scully honored for outstanding service to Yale alumni

Generations of Yale students have benefitted from the classroom leadership of Marie Borroff, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English; Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics and History; Howard R. Lamar, 21st president of the university and Sterling Professor Emeritus of History; and Vincent J. Scully Jr., Sterling Professor Emeritus of History of Art.

Likewise, generations of alumni have benefitted from their service as leaders in alumni events — on educational travel events, as speakers at reunions and other alumni gatherings in New Haven, and in lectures at Yale alumni groups throughout the country and overseas.

The Board of Governors of the Association of Yale Alumni (AYA) honored the four for that service in a ceremony on campus on April 25, as it inaugurated a new recognition program: the Howard R. Lamar Faculty Awards for Service to Alumni. These awards celebrate the contributions faculty make to alumni programs and honor those who have demonstrated exemplary leadership for alumni relations by the ways in which, through their scholarship and activities, they have rendered service to the Yale family worldwide.

Borroff, Kagan, Lamar, and Scully exemplify a long tradition of strong engagement with alumni by many Yale faculty members. In just the last year, 43 Yale faculty have traveled to 63 different regional Yale alumni groups, from Gainesville to Greenwich, Portland to Philadelphia, and Ghana to China. Forty-five faculty have traveled all over the world on Yale Educational Travel tours, a dozen have taught in the new Yale Alumni College, and scores have offered lectures at reunions on campus, at mini-reunions in New York City and elsewhere, at shared interest group gatherings, and at events for the Yale Alumni Fund.

Yale Vice President Linda Koch Lorimer noted at the luncheon ceremony that the awards underscore “the indebtedness of the AYA and indeed the community of Yale alumni to these remarkable scholars who have embraced graduates to be their continuing education pupils — whether they are 20 or 50 or 70.”

Lorimer invoked the sentiment expressed by the late Yale professor George Wilson Pierson — “Yale is at once a tradition, a community of scholars, a society of friends” — in saluting Borroff, Kagan, Lamar, and Scully as “four special members of the community of scholars … who have gone beyond any sense of regular service to Yale to embrace graduates as a society of friends."

The 2014 honorees of the Howard R. Lamar Faculty Award for Service to Alumni and their citations, as read at the luncheon ceremony, follow:

Marie E. Borroff ’56 Ph.D.

Superb scholar of Middle English and the history of the English language, highly regarded translator and sublime poet, you have been the favorite teacher of generations of Yale English students. Many future scholars and hundreds of Yalies who have majored in other subjects have been awakened to the power of poetry by your passionate engagement, your crystal clear lectures, and your devoted attention to their work. As alumni think of how education can break barriers, you also quickly come to mind as a model. You stand for many “firsts” among Yale’s women faculty: the first to teach in the English department, first appointed Professor in that department, second woman tenured in any Yale department, and, finally, the first to be named Sterling Professor. A photograph of the English department in the sixties shows a phalanx of the greatest literary scholars of the age – Wimsatt and Warren and Brooks and Sewall – with you alone in the center. None of the honorifics marking these firsts, however, can ever transcend your accomplishments as a scholar, translator, poet, and teacher or the personal esteem and respect in which you have been held by your colleagues and students.

You frequently responded to the AYA’s call, graciously taking part in panels for Assemblies, on-campus seminars, alumni reunions, and educational travel programs. Your zeal for teaching led you to explore new ways of reaching alumni beyond campus. Alumni prized your videotaped lectures on Chaucer. They became the heart of one of the first AYA online courses, a course that included small group discussions and special open forums you moderated. Your groundbreaking efforts helped lead the way to other online education efforts, such as Yale’s Open Courses and the latest venture with Coursera.

It is an honor for the AYA to present you, a loyal servant of scholarship and the Blue, with the award created for the most dedicated faculty supporters of Yale’s alumni.

Donald Kagan

Foremost scholar of ancient Greek history, author of the four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War and of much more, you are one of Yale’s most highly respected historians. In your dynamic and influential teaching, you have kept at the forefront the principles that are fundamental to your work and life: that the lessons from the earliest development of western civilization help shape our present democracy, which you have called “one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience.” It is hard to imagine that anyone could surpass you in maintaining Yale’s commitment to a vibrant liberal education.

Always a visible presence and commentator on the national scene, you have nevertheless taken time to be a stalwart builder of alumni connections to Yale, participating in club meetings and class reunions as well as educational travel programs and seminars. Turning your entire audience into a phalanx, you brought Greek history to life for those lucky alumni traveling with you on the waters off the Peloponnese. And you have made your insights into the past available to the world through your Open Yale Course in Ancient Greek History.

Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and at different times Dean of Yale College, Master of Timothy Dwight College, and Acting Director of Athletics – a most improbable trifecta! – you have been a Yale partisan and loyalist and always of service, even when your personal or political stands have made you the “loyal opposition.”

For all your contributions to Yale, and with great respect and pleasure, the Association of Yale Alumni is pleased to present you this award for Yale faculty who have given extraordinary service to its alumni.

Howard R. Lamar ’51 Ph.D., ’93 LL.D.

Great historian of the American West, famous at Yale for your grand survey course affectionately known as “Cowboys and Indians,” you have passed on to generations of Yalies a richly nuanced view of their American heritage.

Alumni affection for you is widespread and deep. Your talks have been a highlight of on-campus seminars and reunions as well as meetings of Yale clubs around the country. With your accustomed congeniality, you have led countless educational travel programs, from Mississippi to Alaska, and you devised and executed one of the AYA’s most successful seminars, returning year after year to Santa Fe to involve alumni in the history of the Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures of the Southwest. You also gave distinguished service to all alumni, and to the Yale they love, by undertaking two major administrative responsibilities: the deanship of Yale College for six years and the presidency of the university for one year during challenging times. Your calm wisdom, good sense, and collaborative manner have always made you a valued leader in the community. Never without a sense of humor, you have always understood that self-deprecating laughter makes people feel included – just as when, during the Halloween party you threw at 43 Hillhouse during your presidential year –you wore a sign on your back saying “Mature Senior.”

 Your contributions to scholarship include the magisterial Encyclopedia of the American West, a great gift to our nation. When you retired as Sterling Professor and President of the University, alumni demonstrated their appreciation for you and your work by founding the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders.

The respect in which you are held has inspired the Association of Yale Alumni to name this award for faculty contributions to alumni in your honor. With affection and esteem, the AYA presents to you the Howard R. Lamar Faculty Award for Service to Alumni.

Vincent J. Scully ’40, ’49 Ph.D.

Architect Philip Johnson once described you as the “most influential architectural teacher ever,” and there is no one in this Commons or beyond who would dispute that. Brilliant architectural historian, author of such landmarks as The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods, recipient of the National Medal of Arts, citizen of your beloved New Haven since birth, you have helped shape the architecture of a nation. Architects have been inspired by your views on urban design and its effect on the community. And generations of Yalies have had the way they look at the world changed by you and in turn have changed the way others across America view, plan, and build it. Stories about you have linked decades of alumni, and people from Maine to California and Austria to Australia can tell the story of how your profound engagement in your subject and your passion with the pointer led you to fall off the stage in the middle of making a point.

Legions of alumni groups have sought you out for club and class events, and you accepted as many of those engagements as you could. You have graced Yale educational travel programs to the delight of alumni, enjoying their company as they treasured yours. One particularly memorable talk to a Yale College class was not about art or architecture but about Yale football. A class was celebrating its contributions to the renovation of the Yale Bowl, and you spoke about specific games and even specific plays you had seen fifty years earlier as if they had been the day before.

You are a world-renowned critic, an admirer and devotee of the city of your birth, and a generous alumnus who has given back tenfold to your alma mater, and the Association of Yale Alumni takes pride in presenting to you this award for outstanding service to alumni.