2004 Pinanski Prize citation

Presentation of Awards

Richard French

"No matter what time of day it is, or what the weather is, his smile conveys his general joy and wonder at how the universe works," wrote one student nominator of Richard French, professor of astronomy.

Students praised Dick French for igniting in them "a curiosity, an excitement, and a love for astronomy, and for the methods of discovery themselves, that is truly remarkable." How does he accomplish this? One student explained that Professor French responds to questions in a manner "that does not give the answers away." Instead, she explained, he provides the clues needed "to take our education into our own hands and really learn the material."

For Professor French the questions and answers don't stop in the classroom. In the words of another nominator, "As students, we often forget that what we are learning has real applications that people devote their lives to, and his anecdotes remind us in amusing and interesting ways of how much there really is in the way of application of our knowledge."

Professor French is well known and highly respected in professional circles around the country and the world for his scholarship. He is an active scientific investigator, currently, in NASA's Cassini Mission to Saturn. On campus, his students and his faculty colleagues admire him for his scientific distinction and also treasure him as a master teacher, one of the finest practitioners of the art of teaching in an institution in which the art is highly prized. Students express admiration for Professor French's ability to create an atmosphere of camaraderie within his classroom and to inspire his introductory astronomy class to think of themselves as "new astronomers," delighting in their "endeavors to discover the mysteries of space." Somehow he is able, one said, to take topics of "cosmic-sized difficulty" and bring them "down to a more earthly and manageable scale."

Dick French is a teacher who leaves an imprint on his students for life. With clarity and humor, erudition, imagination and humility, he encourages them to wonder about the mysteries of the universe. One student encapsulated the sentiments of many when she wrote, "I will always cherish my time in class with Professor French."

Bunny Harvey

Students write about Professor Bunny Harvey with enthusiasm and eloquence, describing vividly the impact she has had on their art, and on their lives. One student nominator described Professor Harvey's influence in these words: "I've had professors believe in me before. I've had them encourage me. And challenge me. And question me. And open up to me. But there is something different about Bunny."

Another student nominator wrote "Bunny teaches us not just about the paper, pencil, canvas, or paint, but about how to translate who we are and what we want into what we create."

As a studio art professor - and herself a renowned painter -- Bunny Harvey has mastered the art of creating an accepting and yet demanding studio environment that motivates students to do their best work and fosters creativity and maturity. Students sense that the high standards to which she holds them, and the demands she makes on them, are expressions of her respect for them and what they can do.

"I don't always leave her class feeling happy about my work," one student testified, "but I do feel happy about myself, happy about my potential to grow and what sort of art I'll make tomorrow."

Another of her students reflected, "She always says there is more to do…More time. More energy. More heart." Countless students agree that Bunny Harvey's classes have taught them that art is both a visual expression and a personal exploration.

Another nominator wrote, "She pushes me to see art not as something I just do but as something that is connected to everything else I am learning and experiencing, to see art not just as a student, but as a person." Another student wrote that Professor Harvey is "courageous and bold…her confidence inspires students in her class to unite and create the best work they can."

This process through which a Bunny Harvey class becomes a community of creators was elaborated by another of her devoted students, who spoke for many when she wrote: "she pushes us all as a class: to explore the world in new ways, to integrate our diverse interests and visions and styles into our art, to observe, to make art outside of the classroom, to break out of a simple schedule, [and] to live art."

Kenneth Winkler

In their nominations students describe Kenneth Winkler, Class of 1919 Professor of Philosophy, as "stimulating," "thoughtful," "generous," "accessible" and "inspiring." Students commend Ken Winkler for "welcoming dissent and ambiguity, and acknowledging that some questions have no right answer."

He takes "each student's ideas seriously, without ever compromising the rigor of the class." In the words of one student nominator, "not only does he have an amazing grasp of the philosophical concepts that he covers in class, but he also has the rare ability to explain them clearly, simply and completely."

Professor Winkler demands that his students be "participants in the class rather than merely passive recipients. He conducts each class as if he is teaching a seminar to a group of near experts, which in turn has inspired us to try to meet that standard."

His passion inspires his students, as one recounted: "It is almost as if Descartes and Spinoza are old friends of his rather than distant historical figures." In this high-tech era of persuasion by power point, students are amused and amazed that Professor Winkler can "effectively demonstrate everything - from the mind-body problem to the irreducibility of matter - using only a piece of plain white chalk."

And they admire Professor Winkler for helping them develop their own philosophical thinking even when they are challenging him. One student reported that he helped her refine an argument that was "directly in conflict with his own views" in a field in which he is considered "one of the foremost authorities."

Despite his professional stature, students agreed, Professor Winkler is "unstintingly generous with his time." One student remembered receiving graded exams and papers in which "Professor Winkler's comments and feedback were longer than my original submission." Professor Winkler, students said, brings "dry material to life by sharing his enthusiasm for philosophy and by showing how historical philosophical questions still have urgency today."

Whether it's playing the banjo or telling the story of his encounters with the mob, he manages to "see examples of philosophy everywhere." In sum, as one student wrote, "In coaxing knowledge out of his students [Professor Winkler] embodies the true Socratic meaning of 'teacher.'"