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(Boston, Mass.) — Boston University at Commencement today bestowed its highest teaching award to Joel L. Sheveloff, a professor of music for four decades in the College of Fine Arts. Professor Sheveloff, one of nearly 3,500 faculty members at the University, was named the 31st recipient of the Metcalf Cup and Prize.
The University also recognized three faculty members as recipients of Metcalf Awards for Teaching Excellence: David R. Marchant, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Earth Sciences Department; Anatoly Temkin, an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Metropolitan College; and Rosanna Warren, a member of the University Professors Program, Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Professor of the Humanities, and professor of English and of modern foreign languages and literatures in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“As tangible symbols of Boston University’s commitment to teaching of the highest quality, the Metcalf Awards honor individuals who embody the ideals of excellence, as gratefully recognized by our faculty, students, and alumni,” said University President ad interim Aram Chobanian.
The Metcalf Cup carries with it a prize of $10,000, which Professor Sheveloff is contributing to a scholarship fund in memory of his late colleague, Professor John Daverio. This gift will be matched by the University. Each Metcalf Award winner receives a prize of $5,000. Students, faculty and alumni nominate candidates for the Metcalf Cup and Prize and the Metcalf Awards.
Joel L. Sheveloff
In his 40 years on the Boston University faculty, Professor Joel Sheveloff has developed and taught more than 50 courses — ranging from medieval keyboard music, to opera, to music in the Soviet Union — and has inspired thousands of music students in seven different degree programs. At age 69, however, he insists that he is the one who keeps learning. “I have learned more from you than you have from me. You will never stop being my students,” the tireless mentor and respected musicologist says at the end each course, adding, “If you ever need anything in the future — except money — do not hesitate to contact me.”
Beyond the numerous authoritative works he has written on composers including Brahms, Musorgsky, Ravel, and Domenico Scarlatti, and technical studies of musical performance, notation, and aesthetics published over the years, it is Professor Sheveloff’s devotion to his students, mastery of the complexities and beauty of music, and evident love of teaching that have galvanized his reputation. “Joel Sheveloff is a jewel,” said one student. “He should be forced to teach music history all his life.” Said another, “He had a way of making the world of music not an isolated world of specialists with strange tastes and interests, but an entire world — a complete world in which all of us can live fully.”
Professor Sheveloff joined the Boston University faculty in 1964 after earning a bachelor’s degree in arts from the City University of New York, Queens College, and both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University.
His annual treks to Antarctica over two decades have provided vast insight into Earth’s global climate changes and breakthrough research that hints at analogies between that icy continent’s geological processes and those occurring on Mars, while garnering him international scientific acclaim and a glacier named after him. Although a consummate researcher, Professor David Marchant keenly appreciates that classroom teaching can spark valuable research. “Rather than witness a reduction in my research, my time in the classroom at BU has ignited an explosion of scientific creativity, fueled by young minds questioning conventional wisdom,” he said. “For me, it is difficult to separate research from teaching; teaching is fundamental to research and effective teaching requires ongoing research.”
Whether at his elaborately prepared undergraduate lectures, weekend outings around New England, or intense Antarctica expeditions, Marchant’s students benefit from his enthusiasm for the subject, patience in explaining it, and personal charisma. “His excitement was contagious, and he motivated us by showing his students how to be a great researcher and how to tell a story,” said one of Marchant’s former students. According to Dean Jeffrey Henderson, “Professor Marchant is a teacher who instills in students at all levels both understanding and awe for the dynamics of our planet’s climate, and who also receives, to an uncommon degree, their fervent admiration as a person.”
On the Boston University faculty since 1995, Professor Marchant earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, a master’s degree from the University of Maine, and a Ph.D. in geomorphology from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. In 1999 he was awarded the W.S. Bruce Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his geological research in Antarctica.
Clearly conveying complex math concepts or details of cryptography or computer-language theory is challenging under the best circumstances. It’s all the more difficult to engage Metropolitan College students who have spent their day at full-time jobs and are preoccupied with “real” life before they even get to each 3-hour class. Yet Professor Anatoly Temkin, who for 15 years has taught graduate-level courses with enrollments of up to 35, consistently gets rave reviews from tough audiences that range from graduate students, to mid-career executives, to prison inmates. “Dr. Tempkin,” said his Dean Jay Halfond, “stimulates the intellectual curiosity of students who must pursue their degrees part-time, work full-time in a depressed IT sector, and care for their families. His reputation as a teacher and advisor is a major recruiting asset.”
While Professor Temkin is highly regarded for his mastery of mathematics and ability to convey its principles patiently, it is his attentiveness to individual students and diligence in shaping each class to fit their wide variety of experiential backgrounds that has made him legendary. “Some students will have 10 or more years of programming experience and others will have no work experience at all,” he said. “Understanding their backgrounds, cultural diversity and learning patterns assists me in being a better teacher. It allows me to tailor my presentation so that interest and attention are maximized without compromising subject material.” Such preparation pays off when students rate Professor Temkin’s teaching skills. “A very simple proof of his excellence in teaching is that his classes are the hardest to get in to,” said one appreciative student.
An educational product of the legendary mathematical school at Moscow University, where he earned his master’s degree, Russian-born Professor Temkin received a Ph.D. from Kazan University in Russia. He taught at the Moscow Institute of Electronics and Computer Engineering before coming to the United States and becoming a citizen, eventually joining the Boston University faculty in 1990.
Award-winning poet Professor Rosanna Warren manages to balance the roles of a modest guide to poetry, who can leave students gasping with awe at her recitations, and an acclaimed artist whose own work deserves awe. By teaching students to read attentively, she helps them approach literature as a means of seeing life itself with fresh eyes. “There are very few writers and teachers who do as much as she does, every day, to ensure that young writers understand their debt to international literary culture,” said a former student. “In these turbulent political times, I especially appreciate that Professor Warren tried to make me understand the connection between writing and the larger world.”
Known for her spontaneous classroom performances in which she can easily quote from an obscure poem in Italian or French, supply a supple English translation, then use it as an example to illuminate a discussion point, Professor Warren is praised for her gentle but effective guidance. “She asks questions that lead us to insight,” said one student, “without forcing our thoughts to her conclusions. When we are correct, she is generous with praise. When we err, she corrects us in such a way that we gain needed instruction without the least element of humiliation.” And she can both love great literature and analyze it critically. “There is no cheerleading for classics; there are no gimmicks,” a student said. “One gets the sense that she lives reflexively with the poetry the way that Alexander the Great is said to have slept with a copy of the ‘Iliad’ beneath his pillow.”
With a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s from Johns Hopkins University, Professor Warren joined the Boston University faculty in 1982 after teaching at Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt University. Among her awards are the National Discovery Award in poetry, the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award for Poetry.