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December 1, 2003

Humanities teaching award presented at Merrill College 35th anniversary celebration

By Scott Rappaport

History professor Gail Hershatter was presented with the 2003 John Dizikes Teaching Award in Humanities at a reception celebrating the 35th anniversary of Merrill College held on November 18.

Humanities award winners Gail Hershatter and Joshua Townsend, with professor emeritus of American studies John Dizikes at the Merrill College 35th anniversary celebration Photo: Scott Rappaport

Established last year by the Humanities Division to honor outstanding teaching by humanities faculty, the award was named in honor of one of UCSC’s founding faculty members.

“I was startled and more than normally overwhelmed to win this award,” Hershatter noted. “I am grateful to be named in the teaching tradition of John Dizikes--whom I admire and respect--and I am grateful that this award has been established in his name by the dean.”

Dizikes, a professor emeritus of American studies, began his tenure at UCSC in 1965. He received the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award, served as Cowell College provost, and mentored thousands of students during his 30-year teaching career.

The annual humanities teaching award comes with an unusual provision. In addition to being honored with a check for $3,000, the winner is entitled to select one undergraduate student to receive a $3,000 scholarship.

Hershatter chose Joshua Townsend, a student in two of her Chinese history courses last year. He particularly impressed her after she assigned him the role of Emperor of China in a two-week historical simulation that recreated the Quing dynasty.

“Joshua jumped into the material--he was intensely curious, willing to put in the work, and full of questions,” Hershatter said. “I commend him for his energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity, and I am sure that he will make good use of his scholarship.”

Townsend, a 20-year-old junior at Cowell College, said he planned to use the scholarship funds to pay for next year’s tuition. Hershatter had a similar plan for her award. “I’ll probably use it to pay my daughter’s college tuition bill,” she said. “It’s all going back into education.”

Specializing in modern Chinese social and cultural history, Hershatter has been teaching at UCSC since 1991. A fellow of Merrill College, she also serves as director of the UCSC Institute for Humanities Research.

Hershatter’s award was presented to her at the Merrill Provost’s House by John Dizikes himself, after a brief introduction by Humanities Division Dean Wlad Godzich. Merrill Provost John Schechter then approached the podium to announce some special guests.

“We have, remarkably, a profusion of provosts,” Schechter observed as he introduced four of his predecessors--John Marcum, Michael Cowan, George Von der Muhll, and John Isbister--who each offered a few remarks on the 35th anniversary of the college.

Schechter concluded the event by speaking about the current state of Merrill, noting that the college still remains concerned with three main themes: “poverty, marginalized peoples and their cultures, and the centrality and consequence of individual commitment to a worthy cause.”

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