Academic Awards, Karofsky Teaching Prize, Awarded on 2018 Honors Day

Bowdoin College held its 22nd annual Honors Day ceremony May 9, 2018, in Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall, to recognize the academic accomplishments of Bowdoin students.

In addition, the 2018 Karofsky Prize was announced. The Karofsky Prize is awarded annually at Bowdoin to an outstanding junior faculty member who demonstrates a great ability to impart knowledge, inspire enthusiasm, and stimulate intellectual curiosity.

The award is generously funded by members of the Karofsky family, including Peter S. Karofsky ’62, Paul I. Karofsky ’66, and David M. Karofsky ’93.

Each year, the previous recipient of the Sydney B. Karofsky Prize gives a talk at Honors Day. This year, 2017 winner Assistant Professor of Religion Todd Berzon delivered an address titled “On Inquiry and Antiquity: Confessions of a Citation Enthusiast.”

Berzon joined the faculty in 2014, where his areas of teaching include courses on the history of early Christianity, introduction to the New Testament, and gender and sexuality in early Christianity.

In his address, Berzon promoted the value of learning and the acquisition of knowledge, regardless of how “practical” that knowledge is. “Humanistic inquiry is fundamentally built on the proposition that knowledge exists for its own sake,” he said. “It is an end in itself. It does not need to be practical, now or in the future. Not all knowledge can or needs to be monetized.”

Berzon encouraged the attending students to use their time at Bowdoin, and beyond, to explore disciplines they know nothing about: “not simply to learn new facts or figures, but to gain an understanding of the foundational principles of different fields of knowledge.”

Todd Berzon. Photo: Dennis Griggs

He urged the honorees to “linger over oddities and details you read about. Become obsessed with Aramaic verb forms, the migratory patterns of birds, transcendental numbers, the marginalia on manuscripts, Japanese calligraphy, or, of course, citation technique… Knowledge,” he concluded, “has more than one sort of value.”

Following Berzon’s address, Dean for Academic Affairs Elizabeth McCormack presented this year’s Karofsky Prize to Assistant Professor of Art History and Asian Studies Peggy Wang.

Her research centers on how meanings and histories of art have been constructed in light of cultural globalization. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Chicago.

Wang is currently completing a book-length study on artists’ strategies of sociopolitical intervention in contemporary Chinese art from the 1990s onward. At Bowdoin she teaches courses on pre-modern, modern, and contemporary Asian art history.

The evening’s musical interlude was Concerto for Violin and Cello, Op. 102 (“Double Concerto”) by Johannes Brahms. It was performed by August Posch ’18 on cello and Hanna Renedo ’18 on violin, who were joined by Beckwith Artist-in-Residence George Lopez on piano.

Departmental prizes were then presented to students by academic department and program chairs, after which President Clayton Rose offered a few closing remarks. He commented on the breadth and depth of the work being done by Bowdoin seniors. He also praised the relationship that the faculty have with their students.

“There aren’t disembodied relationships,” he said. “Our faculty know our students, our students know our faculty. This is the essence of what makes Bowdoin such a remarkable and wonderful place.”

To close the ceremony, President Rose invited seniors Caleb Gordon and Sophie de Bruijn to the stage to lead the audience in the singing of the alma mater, “Raise Songs to Bowdoin.”

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