Alums Honor 4 Extraordinary Professors – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Alums Honor 4 Extraordinary Professors

Hobart and William Smith will celebrate four past members of the faculty during the Reunion 2012 weekend.

The Alumni and Alumnae Associations’ Distinguished Faculty Award (DFA) will be presented to Professor Emeritus of Political Science Peter R. Beckman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science Tom Millington and, posthumously, to the late Professor Emeritus of American History John George Van Deusen P’43 and the late Professor Emeritus of International Relations Leonard Lawson L.H.D. ’68. The ceremony will be held on campus on Friday, June 1.

“There are three areas that we look at in deciding to recommend a former faculty member for the DFA: first, the person’s effectiveness as a professor; second, his or her impact on students such as through mentoring; and third, the person’s service, whether to HWS, their department, profession, or the greater community,” said DFA Committee Co-Chair Sally Howe ’67. “Although we look at all three areas, the first two are most important because the DFA is really an award given by former students to their former professors. The committee selected these four faculty members because of the feedback we received from alums, who held all four of these recipients in high esteem for their endeavors both in and outside the classroom.”

Dan Beckman ’84, who serves as co-chair of the DFA committee with Howe, was active in the deliberations concerning Beckman and Millington. “Both of these great professors have long been considered for the award and what got them in that position was their well-roundedness in terms of the areas we look at and strong support expressed by alumni and alumnae through our periodic surveys,” said Beckman. “I not only had the privilege of taking classes with both of them, but I was also honored to inform them, on behalf of the committee, that we wanted to recognize them for all that they have done for HWS and its students.”

In addition to the award ceremony on Friday during Reunion, both Beckman and Millington will be participating in a panel discussion along with former DFA recipients Joe DiGangi, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, and Maynard Smith, Professor Emeritus of Political Science. Their discussion is sure to engage many as they approach the topic of the 2012 Presidential election. Beckman and Millington will also be offering “Mini College” classes on Saturday morning. Beckman will discuss his transition from political science professor to mystery writer and Millington will lead a session titled “Strategically Essentializing Hispanic Race.”

Peter Beckman came to the Colleges in 1971 as an assistant professor of political science, was promoted to associate professor in 1979 before rising to full professor in 1986. His research includes major emphasis on the state of nuclear weapons in the world arena and women’s role in politics and international relations. He is the author of “World Politics in the Twentieth Century,” co-author of “The Nuclear Predicament” and “Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear States, and Terrorism” and the co-editor of “Women, Gender, World Politics” and “Women in World Politics.” Beckman was the co-recipient of the Faculty Award for Distinguished Contribution to Community Life in 1979 along with Professor of Sociology Jim Spates. Beckman taught at the Colleges for 30 years before retiring in 2001. He is currently a mystery writer and is the author of two books: “A Lecture to Die For” and “Of Sunsets, Mountains, and Murder.” Beckman earned a B.A. in international relations from Syracuse University, an M.A. in international relations from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin.

“It was during a course with Professor Beckman that I learned to ask the right questions,” noted Chegg CEO and President Daniel L. Rosensweig ’83 during the November 2006 Campus Launch of Campaign for the Colleges.

Several alums credit Beckman with putting them on the track to their current careers, noting that his teaching continues to influence the way that they think about foreign policy today.

“Professor Beckman understood ‘active learning’ long before it became fashionable,” notes Michael Paris ‘83 in a survey about DFA candidates. “His innovative teaching and total dedication to the welfare and intellectual development of his students were unsurpassed. I am now a college professor. I learned much about teaching, learning, and commitment from Peter Beckman.”

Leonard Lawson came to the Colleges in 1916 as an associate professor of history and rose to full professor in 1917. In addition to serving as head of the history and politics department, he was also named the Charles Henry Brent L.L.D. ’19 Professor of International Relations from 1932 until his retirement 38 years later, in June 1954. His research included major emphasis on current events and their analysis. He founded the International Relations Club, which provided students with an enriched understanding of current events and a strong impetus to an active and useful civic life. He was also responsible for teaching a course titled “War and Peace,” which surveyed the underlying causes of armed strife, and was the first course of its kind to prepare students for lives as global citizens.Lawson earned a B.A. from Upsala College and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He also received an honorary degree from HWS in 1968.

“My mentor at Hobart was the College’s distinguished professor of international relations, Dr. Leonard Lawson, who not only shared with me all of his knowledge of diplomatic history, beginning somewhere in the Peloponnesian Wars, but directed me toward further graduate study in Washington, thereby setting me on a path that has taken me through nearly 40 years as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer – giving me the privilege to participate in the American diplomacy of this period,” says Robert Funseth ’48, who currently serves as an education committee member and honorary trustee at the DACOR Bacon House Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“As a history major at William Smith, Dr. Lawson was very important in my life there,” says Jane Wetmore Lundy ’46. “Besides teaching he was instrumental in furthering my life by helping me to choose and get into graduate school here in D.C. I do wonder what my life would have been like without his guidance.”

Tom Millington came to the Colleges in 1966 as an instructor of political science, rising to full professor in 1981. He was noted for being an approachable professor and was credited with being able to meld conceptual analysis with practical experience by applying the analysis to current events. His research included major emphasis on Latin American politics and included a visit to President Salvador Allende, Chile’s first democratically elected Marxist president in a Latin American country. In 1969, he brought former President of Peru Fernando Belaude Terry to speak about Peruvian and U.S. relations at the Colleges. He is the author of “Debt Politics after Independence: The Funding Conflict in Bolivia” and “Colombia’s Military and Brazil’s Monarchy: Undermining the Republican Foundations of South American Independence.” He retired in 1997 after more than 30 years of service to the Colleges. Millington earned a B.A. from Williams College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

“Tom Millington taught me how to analyze issues in addition to memorizing the facts,” noted Dr. Ken Carle ‘82, a member of the DFA committee. “The facts I have forgotten but the skill of analysis continues to help me every day.”

The Honorable Frank Phillips ‘71 was similarly impacted by Millington, noting that he was both an excellent adviser and professor, who helped steer him toward a successful future. “I took every course he taught and minored in Latin American studies as a result of his courses in Latin American politics,” notes the alumnus in a survey of DFA candidates. “Thanks to his recommendations I got into every grad school to which I applied.”

John Van Deusen came to the Colleges in 1928 as an assistant professor of history and rose to full professor in 1936, at which point he became chair of the department of American history. He is considered by many as one of HWS’ finest professors and scholars from the first half of the 20th century, noted for being ahead of his time in thinking about race relations for his book, “Black Man in White America,” as well as 11 additional books. His research includes major emphasis on the role of the African American man in politics and the life of President Abraham Lincoln. During his time at the Colleges, he served as the coach of the Debate Team and helped the team win almost three-quarters of their debates during the more than six years he coached them. He was the founder of Pi Gamma Mu, a social science honor society, and Tau Kappa Alpha, an honorary forensic society. He retired in 1960 after 32 years at the Colleges. Van Deusen earned a B.A. and M.A. from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

Prior to coming to the Colleges, he taught in secondary schools and at Columbia University. In 1928, he was appointed by the Rockefeller Foundation to study African American life and history, a project on which he worked intermittently for three years.

“John Van Duesen and his course on race relations shed a great deal of light on the social issue of race even before it became a hot button issue,” says John Barnes ’61, who took his class in the late 1950s. “I am quite sure that his class did much to shape my attitude towards people of different races and religions which in today’s events is being tested.”

The Distinguished Faculty Award was established in 1990 by the Hobart Alumni Association and the William Smith Alumnae Association. This joint award of the Associations recognizes the importance that graduates of these Colleges place on the contributions of outstanding faculty members of the past – for their impact as teachers, mentors, and scholars. Suggested nominations for the award are sought from all alumni and alumnae for professors who have retired from HWS, have been gone from HWS for at least five years, or are deceased.

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