1999 Pinanski Prize Citations

Presentation of Awards

Lidwien Kapteijns

Lidwien Kapteijns challenges her students to examine the assumptions they bring to the study of other times and other places, to bring a historian's sensibility to questions about the world. She is admired for her high standards and for the dedication with which she applies them, to her students and to herself. Her erudition and wide-ranging curiosity call forth the best from all.

"She does not cut us slack on papers," one student nominator wrote. "It is understood that students will do all the reading she assigns. At the same time, she challenges us in such a natural way that we are inspired. She constantly challenged me to research and write at a level I hadn't attained before," this student said, to "stop writing like an undergraduate and start writing like a historian."

Student accounts of Lidwein Kapteijns' teaching portray classes in which both the material and the readers' responses are always open to critical scrutiny. "We are encouraged to challenge an author's opinion," one student wrote, "and to look for contradictions." "She always challenged me in any opinion I offered," writes another, "forcing me to think out my arguments as I defended them." Such encounters with a gifted teacher and the intriguing material she loves "always [left] me wanting to know more,"a student observed.

While she pushes her students, Lidwein Kapteijns also attends to their particular needs, ready wherever the opportunity to teach presents itself. One nominator recalled the semester when this busy professor volunteered to teach Arabic language to 15 interested students and gathered weekly with them at 9:00 at night, the only time when they could all come together. Her office hours are never rushed and one student observed that time spent with Professor Kapteijns "made me want to head straight to the library and start working."

A student nominator who spoke for many wrote this: "If I had to explain to a prospective student what the ideal Wellesley class is like, I would give as an example one with Professor Kapteijns."

Marjory Schwartz Levey

Marjory Schwartz Levey's biological sciences students praise her ability to engage with them as they seek to master complicated material. "Her enthusiasm and ability to enliven her classroom and render clarity and coherence from a complex body of knowledge make her an excellent teacher," one student wrote in a comment typical of many.

Her students characterize Marjory Levey as an animated lecturer. "Because class topics are interesting and well-presented," one wrote, "I often related them to a friend who is not even in the class. Marjory has fostered an atmosphere of camaraderie in a group of rather competitive students," this nominator added: "This might be attributed to our five-minute cookie breaks, but I feel it mostly originates from the model of cooperative scientific learning which Marjory has established in the seminar."

Professor Levey is cited by students as an inspiration, a "model female scientist combining career and family life." Students appreciate her responsiveness to their requests for help inside and outside regular classroom hours, and praise her organization of the material in ways that make their own preparation time much more productive and satisfying. Attention to organizational detail, and the ability to break the material into manageable pieces, are major strengths of this special teacher students describe with gratitude.

One nominator described an encounter that summed up for her the impact this engaging faculty member has on the learning experience of biology students, a lively discussion she had one afternoon with Marjory Levey and two of her faculty colleagues, talking about the amazing new evidence that some neurons may regenerate throughout adult life. "As I walked along I marveled ... at this revolutionary finding," the student recalled, and "I was also suddenly aware and appreciative that this woman scientist, whom I greatly admire, discusses neuroscience with me as an equal, and believes in me enough to support my educational goals."

Student testimony reveals that a hallmark of Professor Marjory Levey's encounters with students -- in classrooms and in laboratories, indeed wherever they happen to occur -- is the deep and caring respect for her subject and her students that produces the kinds of meaningful moments young scholars never forget.

Andrea Levitt

"Andrea Levitt is the sort of professor one reads about in the admissions brochures: she genuinely cares for students and seems to have a solid understanding of our lives." A student nominator used these words to describe this French professor's distinguished contribution to the Wellesley classroom.

Professor Levitt combines classroom work with individual conferences as she encourages students to choose independent research topics. "Her teaching style is clear, concise and straightforward, while lively and captivating at the same time," writes another student.

"The breadth of her knowledge" of the fields of linguistics and French, students say, "does not compromise the depth." They cite Professor Levitt's research in linguistics, and the way she communicates it in the classroom, as an invigorating aspect of her teaching. She encourages -- nay, requires -- student use of technology in their presentations. Many students cite this as an important part of their learning. One wrote: "Our use of LX in Intro and Power Point in 322 tugged me out of my computer-free comfort zone and showed me how much fun computers can be in learning." "Her level of commitment to technology in the classroom .. should serve as a model to faculty across the disciplines," another student added.

Professor Levitt is well-known to past and present Wellesley students for the way in which she naturally approaches the whole student, with concern for their educational experience inside and outside the classroom. One nominator summarized this widespread opinion well: "Whether ... in the classroom or out, she has shown the kind of passion for her field of study and concern for her students that ... deserves honor and recognition."