Ceremony honors two celebrated teachers and a former Yale College dean
Words like “amazing,” “superb,” and “fantastic” are understatements when it comes to describing Frances Rosenbluth, the Damon Wells Professor of Political Science, said Yale College senior Johannes Behringer in announcing the Yale professor as a winner of a 2018 DeVane Medal.
Rosenbluth and Craig M. Wright, the Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor Emeritus of Music, were chosen as winners of this year’s William Clyde DeVane Medal, the oldest award for outstanding teaching at Yale.
The William Clyde DeVane Medal honors outstanding scholarship and undergraduate teaching, and has been conferred annually since 1966 by the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. DeVane, the medal’s namesake, was dean of Yale College from 1938 until 1963 and was a long-time president of the Yale chapter as well as president of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa.
Each year, graduate members of the society elect one medal recipient from among the retired members of the faculty (Wright), and undergraduate members elect an undergraduate teaching medal recipient from among the active members of the faculty (Rosenbluth). The medals were conferred at the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s annual dinner at the Graduate Club on April 11.
At the dinner, former Duke University president and former Yale College dean Richard H. Brodhead ’68, ’70 M. Phil., ’72 Ph.D. was presented the Joseph W. Gordon Award. This prize was established in 2016 in honor of Gordon, who earned his Ph.D. at Yale in 1976 and subsequently served on the English department faculty. He was appointed associate dean of Yale College and dean of undergraduate studies in 1988 and in 1998 became deputy dean and dean of undergraduate education, serving in that position until his retirement in 2016.
Fostering curiosity with caring attention
In his tribute to Rosenbluth, Behringer noted that she is a “leading global expert on comparative political economy, an authority on Japan, war, constitutions, and peace,” and added that her expertise on the political economy of gender is “peerless.”
“Those of us who have had the privilege of taking one or more of Professor Rosenbluth’s classes — be it ‘Comparative Political Economy’ or ‘Sex, Markets & Power’ — will fondly remember the distinctive clarity with which she dissects the most complex socio-politico-economic mechanisms of our day,” he said. “She is a brilliant teacher, who continuously kindles the ‘love of wisdom’ in her students that to all of us gathered here is the ‘guide to life.’”
He went on to say that Rosenbluth “challenges her students to develop the curiosity and creativity characteristic of liberal artists and scientists,” while paying attention to each of them individually, identifying both their strengths and their idiosyncrasies.
“Professor Rosenbluth’s caring attention and commitment to her undergraduates know no boundaries,” said Behringer. “In times of academic and personal peril she stands to advise and accommodate. Her leadership keeps students of ethics, politics, & economics and political science from drifting on the seas of academic puzzles like capsized canoes. She is an anchor of wisdom, tranquility, and encouragement whose kindness and support are unmatched and will remain unmatchable.”
For teaching HOW to listen
Penelope Laurans, a senior adviser at the university, shared student reviews of Wright’s teaching — both in the classroom and through his online courses: the Yale Open Course “Listening to Music” and the Coursera-offered course “Introduction to Classical Music.”
A course Wright taught for decades, “Listening to Music,” is a legendary one, Laurans said.
“A significant number of Yale undergraduates come to Yale with musical training and musical interests,” Laurans said. “But his course Music 112, ‘Listening to Music,’ was the course for some of those people but mostly for everyone else — those of you not attuned to the glories of classical music, those of you who do not listen to classical music stations, those of you who are tone deaf, those of you who think of a piano as living room furniture, those of you who do not know a Beethoven sonata from a Bach chorale, those of you poor people doomed to be deaf and to sit through magnificent concerts for the rest of your life with the boredom of the unknowing.
“For you, poor souls, ‘Listening to Music’ was a cherished staple right up until fall 2016 … What [Wright] taught was how to listen, opening ears and minds to centuries of grand repertoire. His textbook ‘Listening to Music,’ used in the class, has gone through eight editions to people around the globe and shows no signs of slowing down.”
While that course achieved “legendary status,” Laurans noted, Wright taught other “wonderful” courses, including “Exploring the Nature of Genius.”
“For your distinguished scholarship and especially for introducing generations of Yale College students to the power and beauty of classical music and to the transformative powers of the arts, the senior members of the Alpha Chapter of Connecticut Phi Beta Kappa are honored and delighted to present you with the William Clyde DeVane Award,” read Laurans’ citation to Wright.
Yale College Dean Marvin Chun presented the Joseph W. Gordon Award to Brodhead. He noted that before Brodhead became the ninth president of Duke University, serving in that post for 14 years until 2017, he had a long career at Yale after earning his three degrees from the university.
“Along the way, he became one of the foremost scholars of 19th-century American literature (especially Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner, and Charles W. Chestnutt) and one of the most popular teachers on campus,” said Chun. “He was, in fact, awarded the DeVane Medal for outstanding teaching by your predecessors at this event in 1979.”
Chun praised Brodhead for his work to develop a blueprint for Yale College education as chair of the Committee on Yale College Education, which released its report in 2003.
“It was this committee,” Chun pointed out, “that restructured Yale’s general education requirements, called for greater investment in international education, created the freshman seminar program, fostered strong connections between Yale College and the professional schools, and highlighted the need for improving undergraduate science education. His leadership of this committee is one of his greatest legacies at Yale, and his leadership at Duke was similarly transformative. He is a national leader in promoting excellence in the arts and sciences, and he is therefore a most worthy recipient of the Gordon Award, which is named in honor of his longtime colleague, collaborator and friend, Joe Gordon.”