Honorary Degree Citation: Andrew Delbanco
As a teacher for more than three decades, since 1985 at Columbia University, you have brought a generation of students to an appreciation of the defining themes of American literature. And as a prominent cultural critic, you have grappled with the same themes as they recur in our lives to this day.
You learned the value of a liberal arts and sciences education at Harvard, where you earned your undergraduate and doctoral degrees, and where you benefited from the generous time and attention afforded by your professors. You were recognized for your own generous gifts as a professor with the 2006 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates.
Although your books and essays are often about authors from the American past, like Herman Melville and Ralph Waldo Emerson, they are based on the idea that these same authors can offer Americans insight on how to live today. Your books include Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now and Melville: His World and Work, which received the Lionel Trilling Award at Columbia University.
In 2001 you were elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and named “America’s Best Social Critic” by Time Magazine. As a trustee of the National Humanities Center and the Library of America, you have been generous in your steadfast devotion to other scholars in the humanities, and their work.
Your essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books, and a collection of them are found in your recent College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be. In this seminal book, you defend the ideal of democratic education and the value of a traditional four-year college experience. You write, “A college should strive to be an aid to reflection, a place and process whereby young people take stock of their talents and passions and begin to sort out their lives in a way that is true to themselves and responsible to others.”
You received the 2011 National Humanities Medal from President Obama for your important work, which has broadened American’s engagement with the humanities. Andrew Delbanco, the Mendelson Family Professor of American Studies and Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, for your dedication to the life of the literary mind and educational ideals in keeping with the mission of Marlboro College, it is our pleasure to confer upon you the degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.