The Hobart Alumni Association and William Smith Alumnae Association will honor Professor of English Jim Crenner, Professor of Philosophy Benjamin Daise and the late Professor of History Maureen Flynn P’09, P’12, P’16 with Distinguished Faculty Awards on Friday, June 2 at 11:30 a.m. in the Vandervort Room in Scandling Campus Center during this year’s Reunion.
Established in 1990, the Distinguished Faculty Award recognizes the importance that graduates of the Colleges place on the contributions of outstanding faculty members of the past – for their impact as teachers, mentors and scholars. Nominations for the award are sought by all alumni and alumnae and are professors who are retired or have moved on from Hobart and William Smith for more than five years or are deceased. HWS alums may submit reflections of award recipients as well.
“The impact that professors have on their students can last a lifetime. They have a gift to inspire, challenge and engage with their students,” says Director of Alumnae Relations Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13. “Selected with great care and consideration, these faculty members will be remembered for their teaching as well as their scholarly achievements. All have left distinct marks on HWS, and their legacies still influence those who had the good fortune to study with them.”
A Professor of English at the Colleges from 1967 to 2008, Jim Crenner helped to raise the Creative Writing major and literary studies at HWS to new levels of excellence. He was a co-founder in 1970 of the Seneca Review, the Colleges’ renowned and internationally distributed literary magazine specializing in poetry and translations. In 2001, Crenner was appointed to the John Milton Potter Chair, an endowed professorship, a distinction reserved for the most consequential members of the faculty. The author of four books of poetry and with more than 50 publications in literary magazines, Crenner holds an M.A. in modern literature and a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Iowa, as well as an M.F.A. from the prestigious Iowa Creative Writers’ Workshop. Crenner is most often described as “inspired” by his former students, who can’t help but carry his influence wherever they go. As one student recalled, “By caring so much about the subjects he taught and about the students he taught, Jim Crenner gave students not only a passion for the courses’ content but also the desire to embody the same level of passion in whatever form we felt drawn to in the future.”
Daise, one of the first black philosophy professors in the country, spent nearly 40 years enriching the lives of his students through the study of existentialism and ancient philosophy, with special attention to the idea of self. He is the author of Kierkegaard’s Socratic Art, a book that affirmed his role as a leading voice on Kierkegaard in the field. Trained in Danish and Greek, Daise earned his B.A. in chemistry from Morehouse College and his Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Texas at Austin. Daise is remembered by former students as challenging their preconceived notions of who they were and what they were capable of. Robert Alan Schindler ’72 reflected: “Ben Daise transmitted a rare and contagious enthusiasm for philosophy and treated students with respect, dignity and equality.”
Flynn, who passed away in 2015, is remembered as a passionate and caring educator who opened portals between the past and the present for her students. Teaching at the Colleges for 12 years, the late Flynn specialized in medieval, renaissance and reformation history, European popular culture and the history of medicine. A Fulbright scholar and member of Phi Beta Kappa, she earned her bachelor, master’s and doctorate degrees from University of Wisconsin Madison. Author of Sacred Charity and countless papers, she held professorships at the University of Georgia and the University of Maryland, College Park before joining the HWS community. Ashley Yang ’11 recalls Flynn’s profound influence on her life: “In my time of loneliness, she took me in and treated me as her own child… And, in my moments of greatest pride, her face was always there beaming at me.”