The Tree of Life and Knowledge – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Tree of Life and Knowledge

Eugen Tree Dedication-00280As Dean of Hobart and Professor of Philosophy Eugen Baer P’95, P’97 retires after nearly 50 years of service to the Colleges, a new relic of his impact stands just beyond the window of his former office in Smith Hall: a saucer magnolia tree, planted in his honor as a gift from William Smith College.

The tree was selected by William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig and former HWS grounds manager David Iannicello for its attributes resembling those of Baer. “Long-lived and hearty, the saucer magnolia is also rumored to speak 13 languages,” joked Kaenzig of Baer who himself speaks 13 languages.

For Baer, the tree powerfully symbolizes the tree of knowledge and tree of life. “As I have come to understand powerfully over the course of a lifetime dedicated to the study of knowledge, it is really the tree of life and the love it represents that matters most,” Baer said. “Thank you for this wonderful representation of the love I have for Hobart and William Smith Colleges.”

Earlier this spring, Baer received the Hobart Alumni Association’s highest honor, the Medal of Excellence, and served as the keynote speaker for Hobart’s Charter Day and the annual Baccalaureate ceremony on the eve of Commencement.

Since 1971, Baer has taught courses in semiotics, philosophy of language and European studies, while authoring a substantial interdisciplinary body of scholarship. He has served as chair of the HWS Department of Philosophy; as adviser to Hobart sophomores, Hobart Student Government and Orange Key Society; and on numerous critical committees related to academic affairs, alums, appointments, curriculum and tenure at the Colleges.

With more than 100 bylines in publications throughout the world, Baer has published 10 books, most recently Eternal Life in the Word: An Introduction to the Life and Work of Friedrich Weinreb. Baer is the author of scores of articles and book chapters exploring philosophy, religion and culture, with specific interest in semiotics. Throughout his career, Baer has served his colleagues and professional community in numerous leadership roles, holding titles with the Semiotic Society of America including two terms as president and 10 years as an editorial board member.

Baer earned his licentiate degree in theology from the University of Freiburg, a biblical baccalaureate degree from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and his doctorate in philosophy from Yale University. More information on Baer’s career can be found here.