1984 Metcalf Cup & Prize
John G. Gagliardo, CLA
Professor John Gagliardo’s students vie among themselves for language adequate to express their admiration for him. For some of them, he is “His Majesty.” One student, having called one of Professor Gagliardo’s classes in history a “baptism of fire,” proceeded to analyze the education offered him there as equivalent to God’s grace, a priceless gift freely conferred but one which must be personally accepted. He concluded that it was easy to regard education as a religion when it has high priests such as Professor Gagliardo. Echoing similar comments by many others, the same student admiringly noted that Professor Gagliardo’s lectures are characterized by “bravura and even a hint of arrogant bravado.” Recently, a visiting high school senior who was undecided about whether or not he would attend Boston University, visited one more class— one taught by Professor Gagliardo—and made up his mind on the basis of one single lecture. Once enrolled, he said that he would have felt cheated had he gone anywhere else.
Professor Gagliardo is, however, far more than a master of classroom teaching. He is widely held to be the hardest-working adviser of students not merely in his department and college, but in the University. Generations of students have not merely completed formal requirements but developed coherent courses of study because of his meticulous attention to their intellectual needs: single-handedly, he has introduced a core curriculum into the education of all his advisees. The extraordinary esteem in which he is held by Boston University students is not diminished by his being a stern taskmaster: students have been known to excuse low grade averages on the grounds that they have taken several Gagliardo courses. In each of the components of the teacher’s task, Professor Gagliardo sets benchmarks not only for students but for colleagues. He personifies excellence.