Phi Beta Kappa honors Dean Gordon for ‘outstanding’ service

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Joseph W. Gordon

The Phi Beta Kappa Society has presented its inaugural President’s Award to Joseph W. Gordon, deputy dean of Yale College and dean of undergraduate education, in recognition of his “extraordinary service” to the academic honor society.

The organization paid tribute to Gordon’s work at the national level for 20 years, describing him as “as one of its most outstanding advocates of excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.” Out-going Phi Beta Kappa president, Fred Cate, presented Gordon with the award — which includes the Judith F. Krug Medal — on Aug. 3, at the society’s 43rd Triennial Council in Palm Beach, Florida.

“Few on the Yale campus know the years of service that Deputy Dean Gordon has devoted to Phi Beta Kappa, holding every office in the organization and reshaping its mission in the late 20th and early 21st centuries,” said Yale College Dean Mary Miller. “He has been a voice of and for academic integrity at all levels and in all reaches of academic pursuit. In bestowing on him the Judith Krug Medal, Phi Beta Kappa does him a great honor by recognizing his leadership and vision for this beacon of academic excellence.”

Gordon’s long association with Phi Beta Kappa began at Amherst College, where he was elected to membership as a junior. His service has included 18 years as a senator of Phi Beta Kappa, 15 years on the executive committee, membership in the Secretary’s Circle, a term as president of the society, and a term as vice president. He has been a long-time member of its committee on qualifications, facilitating the formation of new chapters.

Having joined the Yale College Dean’s Office in 1988 as associate dean, Gordon was named dean of undergraduate education in 1997. He became deputy dean of Yale College in 1998. A member of Yale’s English department since 1976, Gordon was one of the founding directors of the writing program at Yale. He was instrumental in creating both the Writing Center and the Center for Language Study. He is a member of the Provost’s Committee on Lesbian and Gay Studies and has served as chair of that committee.

Phi Beta Kappa’s President’s Award was created in 2009 by the society’s senate at the suggestion of then-president Cate. The accompanying medal honors 

Judith F. Krug (1940-2009), vice president of Phi Beta Kappa 2006-2009, who was the director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association for over 40 years, and executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. The medal commemorates Krug’s commitment to protecting the Constitutional rights of citizens granted under the First Amendment, and to educating the public concerning the right to the free expression of ideas. 

“Judith Krug was a personal hero of mine,” said Gordon, “defending the freedom to read all across the country, for readers of all ages, and so it is a particular honor to have this link to her name and her career, as well as her service to Phi Beta Kappa.”

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