Honorary degree citation
Pennsylvania State University Paterno Family Professor in Literature
Your impact on higher education goes beyond your many writings on cultural studies, literature, disability rights, and politics to the heart and soul of liberal arts education today. You have defended academic freedom as one of the hallmarks of an open society and the intellectual legacies of the Enlightenment.
After graduating from Columbia University and receiving your Ph.D. from University of Virginia, you became widely known as an intellectual commentator, writing accessible books and essays that countered the attacks of academy-bashers with wit and acumen.
In 1997, you were founding director for the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which promoted interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, arts and social sciences. Then in 2001 you joined the English faculty at Penn State University, where you teach literature, cultural studies, and disability studies.
You have written more than 150 essays and six books, the most recent being Rhetorical Occassions: Essays on Humans and the Humanities and What's Liberal about the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Education. You are also the author of a popular blog, where you comment on everything from politics to popular music to the delight of your avid audience.
In 2006, you were named one of the "101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" by conservative activist David Horowitz. Rather than shunning the attention, you have openly, one could even say gleefully, engaged Horowitz to debate his proposed reforms.
You are also well known as an advocate of people with disabilities, stemming partly from experiences with your son Jamie, who has Down Syndrome. Your book, Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1996 and was chosen as one of the best books of the year on National Public Radio. Through your personal insights and articulate views, including co-directing the new disabilities studies program at Penn State, you have shown us how to "see" beyond disabilities and how this can in turn change our vision of society and ourselves.
Roger Bowen, former general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, said that you "remind us, with insight, wisdom and good humor, why a liberal temperament-intellectually open, seriously self-reflective and critically minded-should always be at the heart of the academic experience."
Your eloquent perspective resonates with academic ideals upheld here at Marlboro and is a tribute to the continued relevance and vitality of liberal arts education in America.
Michael Bérubé, it is our pleasure to confer upon you the degree: Doctor of Humane Letters