2012–2013 was a very good year for The University Seminars. 84 seminars were active, including three of the first five seminars, which began to meet in 1945. Three of the 84 were newly organized, and the rest met, as they had done for years, to continue focused discussions on topics important to their members and not properly studied in any one academic department or school. Bob Pollack is happily ensconced as Director of The University Seminars having served for over a year and a half already. Bob, Alice Newton, Pamela Guardia, Gesenia Alvarez and Summer Hart function brilliantly together as the administrators of the Seminars. Our website is working well; the archive project is moving along with the welcome addition of our former Director, Bob Belknap, as our part-time historian. Summer and Bob Belknap continue to work with the Library to formalize the complicated process of making our archive of seminar minutes and office correspondence available for scholars through the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library. With the help of an engaging consultant, Alexander Matskevich, we have totally redesigned, enhanced and upgraded our Access Database. Pamela Guardia has taken the lead in this critical project and her position has changed to include database management.
Our office’s work and the quality of the seminars have again benefitted from the continued attention, kindness and creative competence of our colleagues in Faculty House and UEM. We are particularly grateful to David Martin, Leslie Robinson, Emerald Currie, and, of course, Scott Wright and Joe Ricciutti. We welcome Leonard Zinnanti as the new Assistant Manager of Faculty House. As Director, Bob Pollack is happily surrounded by a network of chairs, rapporteurs and seminar members, all of whom may require answers to small or large questions at a moment’s notice. Together with his office colleagues and the Seminars Advisory Board, Bob has worked with chairs to clarify the boundary conditions within which it is the chair and not the office that determines the actual operation of any given seminar.
Even as the office has worked to maintain a high level of transparency and continuity among seminars, we have also seen another year of transitions. We are excited by the renewal of the Seminar on the History of Columbia, and its first project, a history of The University Seminars. The three new seminars that held meetings for the first time in 2012–2013 are Work/Family in the 21st Century; Global Mental Health and Big Data and Digital Scholarship.
We were greatly saddened by the passing of Peter Juviler, a long time chair of the Human Rights Seminar and a member of the Advisory Board from 1997 to 2011. He was devoted to The University Seminars and he is greatly missed. We are also saddened by the loss of two other chairs of seminars this past year: Frank Moretti, of the Seminar on New Media and Ray Bulman of the Seminar on Religion. In addition to the Seminars themselves, our office is responsible for the Schoff Lectures, the Annual Dinner and Tannenbaum Lecture, and the subvention of scholarly books and articles emerging from seminars. In all these matters we are assisted by our Advisory Board, chaired by Robert Remez and made up of academicians who are knowledgeable about The University Seminars and who agree to serve for a term of three years. This year Herb Terrace and Ester Fuchs have taken leave from their years of service; Paige West and Jim Jordan have joined the Board. We are very proud to present here the illustrious roster of our upcoming Schoff Lecturers:
Fall 2013 Paige West, Anthropology, Barnard, Columbia
Fall 2014 Bob O’Meally, Jazz Center and English Department, Columbia
Fall 2015 Robert Remez, Psychology, Barnard