Geneseo Professor, Neighbor, Friend Wins College’s First Faculty Career Achievement Award

GENESEO – Passionate teacher, scholar and community member Ron Herzman received SUNY Geneseo’s first ever Faculty Career Achievement Award.

According to a press release from SUNY Geneseo, Ron Herzman, Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at Geneseo, accepted the award to a standing ovation during Faculty Convocation, his first day on campus since recovering from heart surgery.

“I’m honored and flattered,” said Herzman. “Receiving this recognition from my faculty colleagues was very moving to see. I was really happy.”

Herzman is in his 49th year at Geneseo, and though he plans on retiring in May, he will stay connected to the college by continuing to support the advancement division’s fundraising initiatives and serving as faculty liaison for the English Department’s Alumni Council.

Herzman fashioned himself ‘a city kid’ when he first came to Geneseo.

“Two weeks into Geneseo, however, I was hooked,” he said, “and it turned out to be a fantastic match.”

He met his wife, Ellen, on the theater stage while they were college students in New York City. She worked for a time in Geneseo’s Department of Theatre and Dance and also became an active member of the Geneseo community.

“Ron is the ultimate Geneseo scholar-citizen, and I can think of no one more deserving of the college’s first Faculty Career Achievement Award,” said Geneseo President Denise A. Battles. “In my relatively short time at Geneseo, I have seen first-hand the tremendous mark he has made on the college over the years through his exceptional scholarship, meaningful teaching and far-reaching service. A great number of students, fellow faculty members and staff have benefited from having Ron as a teacher and mentor, and his contributions have done much to establish Geneseo as the exemplary public liberal arts college it is today. I enthusiastically look forward to Ron’s involvement for years to come in helping to ensure the college’s success.”

Herzman’s accomplishments as a beloved and active Geneseo faculty member and international acclaimed Dante scholar would fill several pages. He has taught countless students and says a huge proportion of his friends are alumni he taught, many of whom have developed their own successful academic or professional careers. He has authored a number of books, including ‘The Medieval World View: An Introduction,’ which he co-authored with Bill Cook, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at Geneseo. The book has been in use in classrooms worldwide for 34 years. He also has authored some 50 journal articles and served three years as chair of Geneseo’s English department. He also was involved in prisoner educational programs at New York’s Attica Correctional Facility.

Herzman’s doctoral dissertation focused on Chaucer, but his penchant for Dante grew out of an early Medieval World Literature course he taught at Geneseo in which he included five weeks on Dante.

“I decided that five weeks wasn’t enough, so Bill Cook and I developed an ‘Age of Dante’ course that we team taught at Geneseo and abroad, and we were obsessed. We taught the course for 40 years.”

In addition, Herzman has spent 15 summers teaching Dante seminars in Italy for the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is currently serving as the educational and outreach director for the Dante Society, which recently bestowed its first award for best Dante teaching at the high school level. It went to one of Herzman’s students.

Herzman credits the support he has received from Geneseo over the years for his distinguished career.

“I’ve been lucky to have a really good department to work in and have loved encountering very talented students,” he said. “I am grateful for the nurturing I received as a young faculty member and pleased I’ve been able to do my own faculty nurturing.”

Herzman said he has seen many changes during his time at Geneseo but “the thing that has changed most is me. I used to be the age of my students’ parents and now I’m the age of their grandparents,” he said.

The internationalization of the Geneseo campus is among the list of positive changes Herzman has seen over the years, coupled with the growth of study abroad programs.

Rob Doggett, professor and chair of Geneseo’s English Department, said he has looked up to Herzman as a mentor and friend, someone he could always turn to for good advice about teaching, scholarship and college service.

“He has provided that advice, and not simply because he is a kind, generous person. It’s because he cares so deeply about this college,” said Doggett. “He loves Geneseo, and he does everything possible to help it flourish. I cannot think of anyone who better represents all that we value as a public liberal arts college.”

(L-R) Geneseo Provost Stacey Robertson, Faculty Senate Chair Duane McPherson, Herzman, and Geneseo President Denise A. Battles. (Photo/SUNY Geneseo)