UC Berkeley News


A new honor for indefatigable former faculty
The first Dickson Emeriti Professorship recognizes the ongoing work of Joseph Duggan

| 19 March 2008

Joseph Duggan, professor emeritus of French and comparative literature, retired in 2005 after 41 years at Berkeley. By all appearances, however, Duggan is disinclined to pursue the undemanding pleasures most people enjoy in their golden years.

Joseph Duggan (Wendy Edelstein)

Since retiring, Duggan has continued to pursue his research - he translates and edits medieval French literature - and also serves half-time as associate dean in the Graduate Division. (Duggan, who has served in the Graduate Division in various capacities since 1977, was recalled last year after then-Associate-Dean Andrew Szeri succeeded Mary Ann Mason as dean.)

Duggan isn't the only emeritus professor who contributes to the campus in retirement, but he is Berkeley's first to receive the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship. The one-year Dickson appointment comes with a $10,000 award, which may be used to support teaching, research, public service, or as a salary stipend.

The man behind the Dickson Emeriti Professorship passed away 52 years ago. Edward Augustus Dickson, political editor of the Los Angeles Express, was a University of California regent who in 1917 helped to establish the system's first southern outpost, known today as UCLA. Dickson, who graduated from Berkeley in 1901, was appointed a regent in 1913, at the age of 33. He had the longest regental tenure, serving for 43 years until his death in 1956.

It's fitting, then, that in 1955 Dickson left a sum of money to the UC system, proceeds from the investment of which he intended be used to recognize the importance of sustained post-retirement service to the university. He stipulated that the funds be used to support special annual professorships for faculty on the basis of service, research, and teaching.

Dickson's gift remained in a central fund held by the UC Office of the President until 2003, when it was divided among the 10 campuses. Berkeley's slice of that pie currently is valued at $234,000, according to June Smith, director of development policy and administration at the UCOP.

Fanfare for emeriti

Many Berkeley faculty retire but remain involved with the university - through their ongoing research or creative activities, supervision of graduate students, and/or participation on qualifying exams or graduate-thesis committees, says Richard Malkin, a professor emeritus of plant and microbial biology who is president of the UC Berkeley Emeriti Association. Their contributions, he says, largely go unrecognized.

Fanfare for emeriti faculty does seem wanting. Berkeley has a Distinguished Emeritus of the Year award, an honor for which the recipient receives a commemorative plaque. And the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award is a $5,000 systemwide prize open to any emeriti in the humanities or social sciences, in recognition of "outstanding scholarly work or education service" since retirement. (Gene Hammel, professor emeritus of geography, was the last Berkeley faculty member to receive the Panunzio Award, in 2003-04).

"There's one professorship for emeriti, and this is it," says Malkin of the Dickson professorship. Service to the campus was a key factor in selecting Berkeley's first Dickson professor, says Malkin. "Joe Duggan has basically done everything - he's continued to teach, he's continued to be very active in his research career." Factor in Duggan's service in the Graduate Division, and Malkin calls his post-retirement load "staggering."

Duggan, who has directed close to 30 doctoral dissertations during his career, values maintaining contact with students. "His graduate seminars in medieval French literature (which he has continued teaching even after retirement) have been popular with and influential for generations of students," says Michael Lucey, chair of the French department and one of Duggan's nominators.

Kathleen McCarthy, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, echoes Lucey's sentiments: "His teaching has been of enormous importance," she says of Duggan. "In addition to his historical and literary expertise, he also is a skilled textual editor who is able to teach students the real hands-on business of learning to read and edit medieval manuscripts."

A focus on Roland and Garin

Such is the painstaking scholarly practice in which Duggan has engaged for more than 40 years. He served as a general editor on La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland): The French Corpus (2005), the first complete edition to apply scholarly standards to all of the French versions (seven manuscripts and three fragments) that relate the story of the defeat of Charlemagne's rear guard in the Pyrenees in the year 778. The project involved six editors and was 21 years in the making.

The Dickson Emeriti Professorship has afforded Duggan the opportunity to focus on and edit a lesser-known medieval manuscript, Garin le Loherain, which was purchased by the Bancroft Library circa 1968, shortly after the young scholar arrived at Berkeley. Garin le Loherain tells the story of a series of wars between the nobility of Loherain and that of Bordeaux, says Duggan, who calls it "a fine epic poem." The poem is 16,000 lines long, or about 500 pages, he estimates.

What does editing a medieval manuscript involve? Duggan begins by copying the manuscript line by line. (In the case of Garin le Loherain, he transcribed the 13th-century writing from microfilm.) He then adds punctuation, quotation marks, and capitalization - all omitted in the original version. Next he annotates references that might baffle modern-day scholars and analyzes the language.

Duggan relishes the involved process. "I can walk away from the modern world into a library, and I'm back in the 13th century dealing with the problems of that period. It's tremendous fun."

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