Two Committed Teachers Are Honored With DeVane Medals

A professor who speaks nearly all Slavic languages and is “one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet” and a music professor whose “sensitive piano playing [has been] a hallmark of his classes” have received this year’s DeVane Medals for distinguished teaching and scholarship.

Robert Greenberg, professor (adjunct) of Slavic languages, and Leon Plantinga, professor emeritus of music, received the medals.

Each year at its annual spring banquet, the Yale chapter (Alpha of Connecticut) confers the DeVane Medals on members of the faculty who have distinguished themselves as teachers of undergraduates in Yale College and as scholars in their fields. Acting on behalf of the chapter’s graduate membership, the graduate officers, advisers and members of the executive committee select a retired member of the faculty for this honor, while Yale seniors in the chapter select a current member of the faculty who has been teaching at the University for at least five years. The awards are named for William Clyde DeVane, a former dean of Yale College who was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Senate and national president of the United Chapters.

About 85 Yale students and faculty members attended the dinner. The evening’s poet was Cynthia Zarin, senior lecturer in the English department and a regular contributor to The New Yorker. The featured speaker was Linda Greenhouse, the Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer at the Law School. Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times between 1978 and 2008.

In his citation for Greenberg, Yale senior Alexander Kazberouk said the Slavics professor has “put on plays, taken students to Russian neighborhoods of New York, adopted many humorous accents to emphasize a point in class and made students fall in love with the Slavic world again and again.

“Outside of class, he’s approachable and eager to talk about crossing borders in the Balkans, the mysterious basements of the Hall of Graduate Studies, listening to Ukrainian music, applying to law school, or life in general,” he continued. “This semester, his political science seminar, ‘Languages and Politics,’ attracted over 80 applicants who wrote pleading statements of interest and even got friends to write letters of support on their behalf. All hoped to learn from Professor Greenberg.”

A Fulbright senior scholar, Greenberg is recognized for his work on linguistic and political issues in the former Yugoslavia.

Haun Saussy, the Bird White Housum Professor of Comparative Literature and graduate president of the chapter, read the citation for Plantinga, who earned his Ph.D. at Yale in 1964.

“As a professor in the Yale music department since 1963, he has taught generations of students including such eminent scholars as Larry Todd, Gretchen Wheelock and Stephen Hefling,” said Saussy. “With a home base in German Romanticism, Leon ranged widely around the history of music, starting with a translation of the 14th-century ‘Ars Nova’ of Phillipe de Vitry … to important books on Schumann and Clementi, to his masterful study of Beethoven concertos. His textbook on Romantic music is a standard yet to be surpassed.”

Saussy also noted Plantinga’s service to his department and to the University in general, including a stint as acting director of the Collection of Musical Instruments. Plantinga has continued to teach courses in music and humanities and is a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center. His piano playing, remarked Saussy, “transmits an ethos of the thoughtful, analytic but committed scholar.”

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