Seery Wins Phi Beta Kappa Honor

George Irving Thompson Memorial Professor of Government and Professor of Politics John Seery has been awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s prestigious Sidney Hook Memorial Award. Seery will receive the award at the 42nd Triennial Council of the Phi Beta Kappa Society on Saturday in Austin, Texas, where he will also be the keynote speaker at the closing banquet.The award, presented every three years, “recognizes national distinction by a single scholar in three endeavors: scholarship, undergraduate teaching, and leadership in the cause of liberal arts education,” according to the Phi Beta Kappa Web site. The award includes a $7500 prize funded by a grant from the John Dewey Foundation.“I’m the first person from a liberal arts college to win this award, and I presume that’s why they picked me,” Seery said. “I think they wanted to focus attention on liberal arts teaching in the trenches.”Assistant Professor of Politics Susan McWilliams, who nominated Seery for the award, said the Phi Beta Kappa Society chose Seery “not only because of his impressive body of work, but also because he is dedicated to preserving and defending the small liberal arts college.”“Today, many small liberal arts colleges are closing or abandoning the core liberal arts mission. This is surely a grim turn in American education,” McWilliams said. “In that upsetting atmosphere, Professor Seery has been a forceful and vocal defender of liberal arts education and the values it represents.”McWilliams nominated Seery for the award during the 2006-2007 school year.“She cryptically came up to me and said, ‘Send me your [curriculum vitae]. I want to nominate you for this award,’” Seery said. “She came into my office a couple of months ago jumping up and down shouting ‘You won.’”McWilliams said she nominated Seery because “he fulfills the ultimate responsibility of being a professor, which is not just to teach and publish and serve your own college well, but to speak about big issues beyond the self-enchanting circles of academic specialization.”“Professor Seery is a really great academic political theorist who is also very much involved in the ‘real world,’ the world of political practice and action,” McWilliams said. “That has long made him a culture hero of mine.”Although Seery is glad he won the award, he is wary because he feels it is “a little pre-obituary.”“I welcome it, but it’s also a little strange to be thrust into a national spotlight,” Seery said. “I have a lifelong reservation against awards culture. I refused to be recognized as valedictorian in high school. I haven’t had motivation to seek out awards.”Seery likes liberal arts education because it places him in good company, he said.“It’s hard to put into words,” Seery said. “I like well-rounded, well-spoken people. I like quality individuals and that’s what liberal arts education produces.”Seery’s students were enthusiastic in declaring the award well-deserved. Marlies Talay PO ’10 said Seery “is a perfect example of a professor who is crazy about liberal arts education.”“Professor Seery not only makes his students think in ways they wouldn’t have ordinarily, but is also sincerely dedicated and interested in his students,” Talay said. “He is always available to speak with them, to talk about their day or their future, and to help them in any way he can. ”Kaylie Wilson PO ’10 said Seery’s teaching style makes his classes feel more comfortable.“His system for running his class is great,” Wilson said. “Every class is run by students, but he manages to insert small lectures within student lessons. He develops the class as a community.”Wilson also likes how Seery learns alongside his students.“In some ways, it’s as if he’s developing his knowledge as he teaches,” Wilson said. “The class’s awareness increases as his awareness increases.”Greg Carter PO ’10 said Seery’s background as an Iowa native also contributes to his teaching style.“I think he adds to Pomona because there are so few people from the Midwest or from non-urban areas. He has some sense of the world that many don’t have, and he brings that to class.”

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