Internationally-renowned Dartmouth Professor Susannah Heschel received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Colorado College’s May 23 commencement ceremony. Heschel, who also served as the baccalaureate speaker on the previous day, is the Eli Black Chair of Jewish Studies and an associate professor in the religion department at the College.
In her baccalaureate address, Heschel discussed the significance of memory in improving the world. In Judaism, remembrance is a call to action and “not something that’s commemorative or nostalgic,” she said. Heschel told the Class of 2005 to consider what action to take based on their memory of the college experience and graduation day.
“You have gone through Colorado College, what of Colorado College has gone through you?” she asked the graduating class.
Colorado College called Heschel “one of the foremost scholars in Jewish studies” and a “pioneer and founder” in her field. Her research has focused on modern Jewish thought, feminist theology and German Protestantism.
The school has attempted to bring Heschel to its ceremony for several years, according to Jane Turnis, a Colorado College spokeswoman, and was pleased by her attendance this year. Turnis acknowledged that it is unusual for the baccalaureate speaker to also receive an honorary degree in the same year.
“She’s an outstanding scholar. She’s a leader in her field and she has an extensive list of accomplishments and published works and we felt that those things made her a perfectly deserving recipient for an honorary degree from Colorado College,” she said.
At the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Heschel was the member of a panel on religion and the environment, for which she spoke on Judaism. She also spoke at the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, speaking on Judaism and population ethics.
From 1992 to 1993, Heschel served as the Martin Buber Visting Professor of Jewish Religious Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. Before joining the Dartmouth religion department, she taught as a visiting professor at Princeton University and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and was an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University. Heschel received a Ph.D in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Heschel is currently in the process of writing several books and articles, including a book on Protestant theologians in Nazi Germany. In the Spring 2005 term, she taught two classes, “History of the Holocaust” and “Advanced Topics on Holocaust Historiography.”
She expressed satisfaction with her first visit to Colorado College, recognizing its location in the Rocky Mountains and the unique block schedule in which students take only one class for a three-and-a-half week period.
“The students struck me as serious, thoughtful, and very wholesome, and the College gives students some wonderful opportunities,” she said.
Neal Baer ’78, executive producer of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” also spoke during the commencement ceremony. Roy Romer, former Colorado governor and current superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the late Kay Deen Patterson, a Colorado Springs businesswoman, received honorary degrees alongside Heschel.