At the end of each academic year, the faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges chose two of their members to be honored for extraordinary contributions to the institution’s mission.
Thomas Drennen, a professor of economics who also directs the environmental studies program, received the award for teaching. Geoffrey N. Gilbert, also of the economics faculty, was given the award for scholarship. The prizes were presented at a faculty ceremony held at the end of the academic year.
“Professors Drennen and Gilbert exemplify the spirit of teaching and scholarship at these Colleges,” said Provost Teresa Amott. “They have proven themselves to be great resources their students and a boon to their respective fields of study.”
Drennen is known affectionately to his students as “Captain Carbon, Defender of the Ozone Layer,” because of his passion for environmentalism. He has accustomed his Stern Hall colleagues to the portable thermometer he pulls out at unexpected times in unexpected places to monitor heating and cooling on campus.
Drennen, who joined the faculty in 1995, holds a bachelor of science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate from Cornell University. He is a nationally known scholar who, during the past few years, has created and continues to perfect interactive computer models that explain the relationship between energy use and climate change. These research projects, funded by the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., have been presented to members of Congress to facilitate analysis of policy options that would aid in limiting global warming. In addition, Drennen has been called to Washington to discuss domestic energy policy and the United States’ role in the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
As a teacher, he is known for never telling students something he can show them. Any object that cannot make it into the classroom becomes the inspiration for a field trip. His students at Hobart and William Smith Colleges have had encounters with M&Ms, bunches of bananas, strategically scattered coins, and Coca-Cola; they have visited the Niagara Falls power plant, the Dresden coal plant, local wind farms, Stern Hall, and “green” houses that are not connected to the electricity grid. They have bought (and retired) a real pollution permit.
Gilbert is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), a leading English political economist and writer on population issues. The author of more than a dozen journal articles and chapters in books and an equal number of book reviews on Malthus and matters of population, Gilbert also edited the four-volume work “Malthus: Critical Responses,” published by Routledge in 1998; and the Oxford University Press version of “Malthus’s Essay on Principles of Population.”
Gilbert joined the faculty in 1977. He holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Dartmouth College.
Gilbert’s “World Population: A Reference Handbook,” was published by ABC-CLIO in 2001, three years before his “World Poverty: A Reference Handbook” was published. These books explore historical records of population growth from Neolithic times to the present, as well as current literature on population projections for the future. A reviewer from Library Journal said of them, ” … far from spoon-feeding undergraduates, these titles challenge the … researcher to consider the international and historical scope” of the topic.
“Geoffrey N. Gilbert is a quiet star among us,” said the faculty citation. “His scholarly horizons have expanded from economic history to the history of economic thought, and from these foundations to issues of immense contemporary importance. We are delighted to honor him for his many, and his ongoing, accomplishments.”