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Vol.26, No. 09 Nov. 13, 2000

Belknap, Kuhns Honored for Distinguished Service to Columbia’s Core Curriculum

By Jason Hollander

The eighth annual award for Distinguished Service to Columbia’s Core Curriculum, the oldest and most prestigious Core in the country, was given to Professors Robert Belknap and Richard Kuhns on Tues., Nov. 14, at a reception in the Heyman Center for the Humanities.

Queen Wilhelmina Professor of Dutch History, Language and Literature J.W. Smit received special recognition for having taught all four of the Core’s required classes: literature humanities, art humanities, music humanities and contemporary civilization.

The awards were presented by Austin Quigley, dean of Columbia College, and David Cohen, vice president of arts and sciences. Wm. Theodore de Bary, John Mitchell Mason Professor Emeritus, Provost Emeritus, special service professor and director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities, served as the reception’s master of ceremonies.

The Distinguished Service award was established to recognize faculty and administrators who demonstrate a special devotion to the Core. Winners are chosen for their work outside the classroom, which often includes chairing one of its courses, serving on one of its committees, participating in formal discussions about it, and publishing material on the Core’s nature and purpose.

In 1956, Belknap, professor emeritus of Russian, began teaching at Columbia following his service in the Army. Upon completing his dissertation on The Structure of the Brothers Karamazov in 1960, he began teaching literature humanities and continued for nearly every year thereafter. He chaired literature humanities in 1963, ’67-70, and again for two years in the 1980s.

The administrative positions Belknap has held include: acting dean of Columbia College, associate dean for student affairs, Slavic languages department chairman and director of the Russian (now Harriman) Institute. He is currently director of University Seminars.

At universities throughout the world, from Petrozavodsk to Ekaterinburg, Belknap has lectured and served as a consultant on Columbia’s Core. His writing, which includes two books on Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov, has been supported by Woodrow Wilson, Bellagio Center, Keenan Institute and Guggenheim fellowships.

Kuhns, professor emeritus of philosophy, began his association with the Core in 1950 when he began teaching Literature Humanities. He then taught Contemporary Civilization as well as the Colloquium (for Literature) with Fred Dupee and Lionel Trilling.

For six years, Kuhns chaired Literature Humanities and was co-chair, with Belknap, of the expanded General Education Program from 1978 to 1983. From 1988 to 1991, Kuhns chaired the Society of Fellows in the Humanities and received the Mark Van Doren Award for Great Teaching in 1992.

Among his published books are: The House, The City and The Judge; Structures of Experience, for which he won the Van Amringe Distinguished Book Award; Tradition and Innovation, General Education and the Reintegration of the University, which he co-authored with Belknap, and Philosophies of Art and Beauty.

Smit has been teaching at Columbia since 1965 and is the past chairman of the Standing Committee on the Core Curriculum. He was a co-recipient of the first award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum in 1993 and received the Mark Van Doren Award for Great Teaching in 1984.

An elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Smit’s publications include History in Art, Art in History, Studies on 17th Century Dutch Culture (1991) and reviews in the Encyclopedia Americana and Collier’s Encyclopedia.