May 24, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 17

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    Maclean Faculty Awards will go to Bevington, Nicholas

    By Michelle Caswell and Charlotte Robinson

    David Bevington
    (Photo by Jason Smith)

    Ralph Nicholas

    Two emeritus professors at the University will receive the Norman Maclean Faculty Award given by the Alumni Association at the annual Alumni Convocation held on Saturday, June 2 during Alumni Weekend. David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and the College, and Ralph Nicholas (A.M.,’58, Ph.D.,’62), the William Rainey Harper Professor Emeritus in Anthropology and the College, are this year’s Maclean Faculty Award recipients.

    The awards were given for the first time in 1997 and are named for Professor Norman Maclean (Ph.D.,’40), who taught English at the University for 40 years. The Maclean Faculty Awards recognize emeritus or very senior faculty members who have made outstanding contributions to teaching and to student life on campus.

    Bevington is one of the world’s most respected scholars of Shakespeare. He has written or edited more than 30 volumes on the Bard and his contemporaries, including The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, now in its fifth edition and hailed by many as the preeminent Shakespeare anthology.

    Bevington began teaching at the University in 1967, remained on the faculty for 38 years and continues to teach in retirement. He received a Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1979.

    An expert on English drama and literature from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Bevington has taught everything from Aeschylus and Sophocles to Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard, but is best known for his Shakespeare classes, which proved so popular that students would camp overnight on the Quads to secure a spot in them.

    Also known as a great campus citizen, Bevington has served on the editorial committees of several publications and the boards of Court Theatre, the student-run University Theater and the Library Society Steering Committee.

    He plays the viola in various University musical productions and has been an active and engaged advisor to numerous student groups. He is described as a patient and open-minded teacher whose service to students extends beyond the classroom. He and his wife, Peggy, often brought students into their home for seminars and socializing.

    When he was invited to lecture on Shakespeare to high-school students at Kenwood Academy, he not only accepted every invitation, but also arranged screenings of Julius Caesar and Throne of Blood (an adaptation of Macbeth) for the students.

    Former students and fellow scholars alike praise Bevington for his vibrancy and contagious spirit of inquiry. “With David, learning is joyous and learning is fun,” said a former student. “Learning is a sociable and civilized pursuit; it takes place not just in the classroom but everywhere and all the time.”

    Nicholas is an internationally recognized expert on the religious, cultural, social and economic life of rural people in the West Bengal region of India. Since 1971, when he began teaching at Chicago, he has exhibited an extraordinary commitment to teaching and a dedication to his students, undergraduate and graduate alike. Many of his students are now distinguished anthropologists themselves.

    Winner of a 1977 Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Nicholas also has contributed significantly to the administration of both the College and the University, having served as Dean of the College from 1986 to 1991, and Deputy Provost of the University from 1982 to 1987. He also was Director of the Center for International Studies from 1984 to 1995. He is currently president of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

    As president of the International House at Chicago, Nicholas helped many international students make a smooth transition into academic life in the United States and fostered a community of friends and scholars. One former International House resident describes him as a constant source of personal support and intellectual exchange, whose open-door policy made International House “a friendly place of encounter and dialogue between residents, students and scholars, cutting across cultures and disciplines.”

    Over the past 35 years, Nicholas has accrued a growing list of devoted fans. A former graduate student describes Nicholas’ role in her dissertation process as a “dissertation heart-lung machine,” which aided her in completing her Ph.D.

    Indeed, many students have written that Nicholas was instrumental to their success at the University. One former undergraduate writes, “He was always willing to put the students first and do what was best for them,” while another comments that “his influence on my life has been to always make me aim high, look upwards and think positively at all times.”

    This free ceremony is open to the public and will be held at 10:30 a.m. in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 1156 E. 59th St.