Four Fordham Arts and Sciences faculty members were honored by their peers on Feb. 2 at an awards dinner in the Pope Auditorium on the University’s Lincoln Center campus, as part of Arts and Sciences Day. Since 1994, the Distinguished Teaching awards have honored excellence in the natural and life sciences, humanities, social sciences and the graduate arts and sciences overall.
“This life is about teaching,” said Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center. “Giving of ourselves to another generation is what we are about.”
The honoree in natural and life sciences, Michael Houlihan, Ph.D., was singled out for his contributions to the University’s emerging computer sciences department, about whom Robert Himmelberg, Ph.D., dean of Arts and Sciences Faculty, said “he energizes his class with a combination of clarity, rigor and humor…he is truly a man for others.”
In the humanities category, Sarah Zimmerman, Ph.D., associate professor of English, was honored for what students called a poetry class that is both “dynamic and riveting” and “interesting and intimate.” Michael Latham, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Rose Hill, was given the award in the social sciences undergraduate category, for what was termed “an acute concern for our students’ welfare.”
Rev. Brian Davies, O.P., was the sole honoree in the graduate arts and sciences category. Nancy Busch, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said that Davies “shows the way to students through carefully prepared and stimulating [philosophy]courses” and remarked that one student evaluation dubbed Davies “Saint Thomas Aquinas reincarnated.”
John Entelis, Ph.D., director of the University’s Middle East Studies department, lectured on “Political Islam and the Prospect for Democracy” to kick off the event. Entelis joined the Fordham faculty in 1970, has directed Fordham’s department for two decades and spent considerable time in North Africa studying Islamic culture under Fulbright awards.
A former editor-in-chief of the Journal of North African Studies, Entelis said that violent insurgency in the Muslim world is not due to economic conditions, but because of the repressive political structures of societies “dominated by cronyism that is unchanged for the last fifty years.” Algeria is but one example, he said, of a country where moderate political Islam is stymied, leading to “a more violent form being unleashed.”
Entelis went on to describe some of the lingering issues that prevent democratic progress in the Muslim world: the diminished role of women in society, the few institutional arenas where opinions can be voiced and “an antiquated, inadequate educational apparatus.” He also said that critiques of Islamic society often come from Muslims living in the West, which “automatically de-legitimizes them” in the eyes of the critiqued. Entelis said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the pillars of U.S. Middle East policy, but called both countries “fundamentally flawed,” noting that both have been the source of many jihadist recruits.
Three Fordham College at Lincoln Center students in the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. dance program performed for the faculty to close the event. Lilli-Anne Tai, a sophomore, performed a solo inReflections in D, composed by Duke Ellington and originally choreographed by Alvin Ailey; senior Natasha Diamond-Walker and junior Josiah Guitien danced to Unspoken Words by Francisco Martinez.