Steven Cerf, Bowdoin’s George Lincoln Skolfield Jr. Professor of German Emeritus, has brought his depth of knowledge into not only the German language, but the Holocaust and the opera, as well, to scores of Bowdoin students and alumni over a span of 43 years.
For his tireless dedication and generosity with his passions, the Alumni Council has chosen Cerf to receive the 2016 Alumni Service Award for Faculty and Staff, presented each year for service and devotion to Bowdoin, its students and alumni.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Cerf earned his bachelor’s degree close to his home in Queen at Queens College, City University of New York, and went on to earn his master’s and Ph. D. at Yale University.
He came to Bowdoin in 1971, and was promoted to the George Lincoln Skolfield Jr. Professorship of German in 1990.
Cerf shared freely his personal and family history in the classroom, always in the service of helping students and the Bowdoin community understand German language, culture, and the indelible legacy of the Holocaust — and more generally to understand the power of literature, music and art to express and reveal truths about humanity.
Cerf’s passion for current events, popular culture, the arts — and particularly, for opera — is well known in the Bowdoin community.
Four years he escorted large groups of Bowdoin alumni to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York to learn about opera and experience it firsthand.
In 2008, he proudly became the first faculty member at the College to enter into a same-sex marriage, and with his husband Ben, became a friend and mentor to Bowdoin’s increasingly diverse campus culture.
Cerf’s memory has been described as “famously encyclopedic,” not only for its wealth of facts and scholarship, but for the details about the many students and colleagues whose lives he has touched over more than four decades.
The Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff, along with other awards, will be presented Saturday, June 4, 2016, during Reunion Convocation.