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(Boston) — Boston University at commencement today bestowed its highest teaching award to Allison Adair, a lecturer in the College of Arts and Science’s writing program for which she coordinates the venerated Writing 100 seminar course required of all freshmen. One of nearly 3,500 faculty members at BU, Adair was named the 35th recipient of the Metcalf Cup and Prize and is the first of her academic rank ever to be so honored.
The university also recognized two faculty members as recipients of Metcalf Awards for Teaching Excellence: Thomas Jefferson Kline, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Romance Studies Department and prolific author on French literature and cinema, now finishing his 40th year of teaching; and Professor Andrew Kull, the Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar in BU’s School of Law and one of the nation’s leading experts in the area of restitution.
“Boston University’s highest teaching honor symbolizes our commitment to exemplary instruction and scholarship,” said BU President Robert Brown. “The Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching express our gratitude to the professors recognized by this distinction.”
The Metcalf Cup carries with it a prize of $10,000. Each Metcalf Award winner receives a prize of $5,000. Students, faculty and alumni nominate candidates for the Metcalf Cup and Prize, as well as the Metcalf Awards. The honors were established in 1973 by a gift from the late trustee chairman emeritus Arthur G.B. Metcalf.
“I know I have a reputation for being a rigorous teacher and hard grader,” said Ms. Adair, who mentors other BU writing teachers and is an active and accomplished poet in her own right. “The truth is that I respect my students too much to let them be easily satisfied with writing or thinking that falls short of their abilities. I want to show them that the greatest threat to intelligence (and to earnest sentiment) is not confusion, or miscalculation, but thoughtlessness.”
Ms. Adair joined the BU faculty in 2002. She earned a master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a bachelor of arts degree from Brown University. She is a graduate of Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa. She also is a lecturer at BU’s Metropolitan College and an instructor and board member at Grub Street Writers, a nonprofit that promotes reading and writing in the Boston area.
T. Jefferson Kline
“What I believe I have learned in these forty years is this,” said Professor Kline, who, when considering retirement, said that a life without teaching was unthinkable. “If teaching does not always feel spontaneous, if ideas are not presented with passionate enthusiasm, and presented in a way that addresses the concerns of each individual student then I will likely not succeed in making a lasting contribution to my students’ lives.”
Professor Kline joined the BU faculty in 1979 as chair of the Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Department after serving as the associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has been a visiting professor at Tufts University and the University of California at Berkeley, and earlier taught at Columbia University where he had earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and is a graduate of St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.
“A good class shows the students how to work out answers to the unexpected questions, then how to ask some of those questions for themselves,” said Professor Kull, who feels the most crucial course for would-be lawyers is the first-year contracts class. “When it is done right, the student comes to see that the inner logic of the legal system,” he said. “This sudden realization — ‘Oh, now I see what they’re doing!’ — is immensely exhilarating, and its lasting effects lead most people to regard the first year of law school as the heart of the entire enterprise.”
Professor Kull joined the BU faculty in 2002 after holding faculty positions at both Emory University and the University of Texas. He had practiced law in New York and Paris after earning a law degree from the University of Chicago. Earlier he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oxford University. A Constitutional scholar, his book “The Color-Blind Constitution” won the 1992 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
Boston University is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of more than 30,000 students in its 17 schools and colleges.