A bit of imagination and a whole lot of devotion earned two of UC Davis‘ professors the highest tribute ever gifted by the university.
Last Tuesday, poet Gary Snyder and painter Wayne Thiebaud were awarded the UC Davis Medal during a ceremony held in the Activities and Recreation Center ballroom.
Snyder, a professor emeritus of English, and Thiebaud, a professor emeritus of art, are “luminaries – arguably UC Davis‘ two most famous people,” said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef in a UC Davis press release.
“[Even with their status,] they have remained devoted to classroom teaching throughout their careers, thrilling hundreds upon hundreds of students and elevating the campus by their presence,” Vanderhoef said.
“As a teacher, I try to introduce people to the tools of learning, how to be skeptical,” said Thiebaud in a 2007 College Currents article.
“It is important to have a systematic skepticism where we all know that there is no bottom-line or finite level of awareness – we are continually aware of our ignorance. But delightfully, we can develop ways to deal with these contradictions and vicissitudes,” he said.
Snyder, over the years, has published over 20 books of poetry and prose that have earned high recognition. In 1975, he was bestowed the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “Turtle Island.” With approximately 60 poems in the book, they send out a similar message – “a rediscovery of this land and the ways by which we might become natives of the place, ceasing to think and act (after all these centuries) as newcomers and invaders,” according to the book’s back cover.
Currently, Snyder chooses to spend time on “environmental and cultural issues with a focus on the Sierra ecosystem,” according to the press release. Though retired, he continues to teach at UC Davis – emphasizing creative writing, ethnopoetics and bioregional praxis.
Thiebaud’s history is no less impressive. In addition to his multiple awards, in 1994, President Clinton bestowed upon him the National Medal of Arts.
In 1962, he received his first big “break” and recognition by Newsweek, Art News, the New York Times and Life magazine, all thanks to Allan Stone, a New York Gallery owner, who let him exhibit his work in his gallery.
The UC Davis Medal is the highest honor the campus awards to an individual for contributions to the University of California, Davis, or to the learning community at large, said Claudia Morain, a UC Davis News Service spokesperson, in an e-mail interview.
“It recognizes and celebrates special persons who, by virtue of rare and exceptional accomplishment, have earned a place among the best of the best and are treasured members of the UC Davis family,” she said.
The UC Davis Medal has previously been awarded to Robert and Margrit Mondavi, both vintners and philanthropists, Michelle Bachelet, the president of the Republic of Chile, President Bill Clinton and others.
POOJA DEOPURA can be reached at email@example.com.