Posted: February 26, 2009
Teaching excellence and scholarly achievement were showcased at Mount Holyoke College's annual Celebration of Faculty Accomplishments on Monday, February 23. In her welcoming remarks President Joanne V. Creighton noted, “Faculty are the heart of the academic enterprise…. This event, now in its tenth year, is a chance to say thank you to you all.”
(L-R: President Joanne Creighton, Fred Moseley, Jane Crosthwaite, Paul Staiti, and Donal O'Shea)
The ceremony itself focused on the four recipients of the 2009 prizes for distinguished teaching and scholarship. Jane Crosthwaite, professor and chair of religion, and Paul Staiti, Professor of Fine Arts on the Alumnae Foundation, received the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Prize for Teaching; Lilian Hsu, Elizabeth Page Greenawalt Professor of Biochemistry, and Fred Moseley, professor of economics, received the Meribeth E. Cameron Faculty Prize for Scholarship.
The prizes, presented by Dean of Faculty Donal O'Shea, were made possible by gifts from members of the MHC board of trustees. An anonymous donor funded the teaching award. The scholarship award was endowed by former trustee Janet Hickey Tague '66 in honor of Meribeth E. Cameron, a professor of history from 1948 to 1970 who also served as academic dean, dean of faculty, and on a number of occasions, as acting president.
Crosthwaite, who has taught at the College for almost 30 years, was described as “one of MHC's most beloved professors…. Her students speak of dramatic shifts in their understanding of the world and their place in it.” In accepting her award, Crosthwaite--a scholar of Shaker history--referenced the Shakers’ communal tradition that valued the contributions of all brothers and sisters. Then, drawing the parallel that “the success of each faculty member rests on the good work of all her colleagues,” she thanked the other members of her department and noted the significant contributions of staff members, including Anna May Dion, senior administrative assistant for the Department of Religion, Laurie Dion, office assistant for the Department of Religion; and Janet Ewing, acting director for research and instructional support in LITS.
Staiti, an internationally recognized authority on American painters in the colonial period, has cocuratored and coauthored John Singleton Copley in America, an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; and Jefferson's America and Napoleon's France at the New Orleans Museum of Art. “Faced with a coin toss between scholarship and teaching, we decided to listen to his students,” O'Shea said. “Paul’s art students appreciate the way he weaves the material about the social and political context of paintings without losing the aesthetic thrill of the work…. They are in awe of his capacious knowledge of painterly detail. 'He can even tell you about specific houses in a landscape painting' wrote one student.”
In response, Staiti used Paul Revere, a portrait painted in 1768 by John Singleton Copley, to offer the audience a glimpse of how he guides students to become “engaged viewers who have the capacity and willingness to meet works of art and architecture halfway across the critical space between us and it.” The process, he said, requires from students “a sharpened visual acuity, a belief that culture has the power to shape images as well as our views, and, most difficult, the ability to explain soundless images with verbal precision.”
Hsu, who was not in attendance due to a missed connection from Casablanca to Tunis, was honored for her research on the mechanism of transcription initiation, a molecular process that is crucial to determining what genes will be expressed when and how much. Hired in 1981, Hsu was the first biochemist on the MHC faculty. “Lilian's funding record is well beyond exemplary--it's phenomenal,” O’Shea said. “Her series of grants has covered every year since her arrival at Mount Holyoke College, and her current grant from the National Science Foundation runs from 2009 until 2012…. In the last decade, she has had 19 undergraduate coauthors.”
Moseley, the final honoree, is one of the world's leading experts on Marxian economic theory and the nature of capitalism. His citation, which mentioned his extensive writings on economic crises throughout U.S. history, also described him as a “prolific scholar whose work has been translated into eight languages. In addition to his work on declining profit rates and crisis, Fred has worked on other aspects of Marxian theory including: money, the transformation problem, Marx's theory of the distribution of surplus value, and productivity.”
Upon receiving the award, Moseley expressed his appreciation to MHC for research funds that seeded “a small working conference” back in 1991. Now known as the International Symposium on Marxian Theory, this distinguished international group of economists and philosophers continues to meet annually across the globe.
A reception followed in the Warbeke Room where recent faculty publications were on display.