Two Yale Professors Honored with Devane Medals for Teaching

Two Yale University faculty members were honored recently for captivating their students in the classroom and for making noted contributions to their fields. Historian Howard R. Lamar and statistician Joseph T. Chang received the William Clyde DeVane Medal – the oldest and highest award for distinguished scholarship and teaching in Yale College – at the recent annual Phi Beta Kappa dinner.

Lamar, a resident of North Haven, is the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History and a former president of the University. Chang, who lives in Hamden, is associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in statistics.

Established in 1966, the medal is named for William Clyde DeVane, who was dean of Yale College 1938-63, as well as longtime president of the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and former president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. Each year, graduate members of the society vote to present the medal to a retired faculty member, while members of the senior class elect an active member of the faculty to receive the award.

Lamar, a historian of the American frontier and the American West, earned M.A. (1945) and Ph.D. (1951) degrees from Yale. He joined the faculty in 1949 and was promoted to full professor in 1964. In 1970, he was named the William Robertson Coe Professor of History, and in 1987, he became Sterling Professor. He was dean of Yale College 1979-85 and served as president of the University 1992-93. In addition, he has held posts as director of graduate studies in history and chair of the history department.

Considered one of the preeminent scholars in his field, Lamar is the author of “Texas Crossings: The Lone Star State and the Far West, 1836-1986,” “The Trader on the American Frontier: Myth’s Victim,” “The Far Southwest: 1850-1912: A Political History of the Territories of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah” and “Dakota Territory, 1861-1889: A Study of Frontier Politics.” He was the general editor of “Reader’s Encyclopedia of the American West” and coeditor of “The Frontier in History: North America and Southern Africa Compared.” He was a participant in the Time-Warner television series “The Wild West.”

Chang, who joined the Yale faculty as an assistant professor in 1989 and was promoted to associate professor in 1996, has focused his statistical research on probability, stochastic processes, random walks, renewal theory, sequential analysis, change-point problems, quality control, and genetics and evolution. He has taught 13 courses since coming to Yale and has served as an adviser to students in statistics as well as other departments, ranging from mathematics to sociology to biology. Chang has served since 1991 as director of undergraduate studies in statistics, and also is a member of the Course of Study Committee and the Committee on Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Statistics Teaching.

The DeVane Medals ceremony also featured a speech by Richard H. Brodhead, dean of Yale College, and the recitation of a poem, titled “Triptych,” by Marie Borroff, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English. Borroff composed the poem specifically for the occasion; it is the third poem in what is expected to be a series of original poems commissioned by the Yale Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

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