Award celebrates professor’s "extraordinary impact" on student’s life

Longtime Yale faculty member Paul Fry has been honored by The Kennedy Center with a Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award.

Fry, the William Lampson Professor of English, is one of 10 teachers to receive the award this year for their “extraordinary impact on the lives of students.” The honor carries a $10,000 prize.

“In many people’s lives there is at least one teacher who inspired them, and helped them become who they are today,” notes the Sondheim Award website. “These are the teachers who define us, teachers who widen our horizons and encourage us to explore. These teachers are touchstones to paths of achieving more than we might have otherwise accomplished, in directions we might not have gone.”

Teachers are nominated by their former students. In this case, it was New York Times columnist and Emmy Award-winning news correspondent David Pogue ‘85 who proposed Fry for the award.

In his letter of nomination, Pogue recounted his former professor’s philosophy that “all writing is meant to be persuasive” and Fry’s insistence that Pogue “convince” him of something in the next class assignment. “That simple idea was so profound, it’s affected everything I’ve ever written since: 50 how-to books, 2 novels, and of course thousands of newspaper and magazine columns,” noted Pogue. “He was right. And he changed my life.”

Fry has taught and lectured for 39 years at Yale — 12 as director of graduate studies. His “Introduction to Literary Theory” is one of the offerings on Open Yale Courses.

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards were created in honor of composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday, and were initiated and funded through the support of Freddie and Myrna Gershon. Winners are announced on March 22, Sondheim’s birthday.

A more in-depth article about Fry and his teaching experience will appear later this month in the Yale Daily Bulletin.