Professor of the Year 2017: Steven Cortright

Steven CortrightLast week students, faculty, staff, and alumni packed into the Soda Center to celebrate the work of Steven Cortright, professor of Philosophy and Integral, who was chosen as 2017 Professor of the Year.

President Jim Donahue introduced Cortright and gave a glowing account of his contributions to Saint Mary’s. During his tenure, Cortright has given “wise leadership” to the College, Donahue said. He has introduced “innovative philosophy classes” within the Philosophy Department and he has contributed while still “advancing his own scholarship,” he said.

He noted that out of the 29 courses within the Integral Program, Cortright has taught all but one.

Donahue joked that “[Steven Cortright] is Saint Mary’s College’s answer to Mr. Chips,” which met with roaring laughter from the likes of Brother Mel Anderson, and other faculty and staff members, but left many of the younger students confused.

In his closing remarks, Donahue referred to Cortright as “the most intelligent soul in the room,” to which Cortright, standing beside him, shook his head.

After Donahue’s introduction, Cortright took the podium to reflect on his personal history with the College. He reminisced about a time in 1970 when he first became aware of Saint Mary’s. An advisor told him, “There’s a little Catholic school … it’s not for everyone … but I think you might like it.”

He reflected on the theory and practice of liberal education, which was dense yet quotable, as shown by how some professors jotted down his sentences. Steve Cortright is a professor’s professor and fittingly, he gave a lecturer's lecture.  

“What is most important [for liberal education] is an association of teachers that are united by a tradition and work to preserve it,” Cortright said. “The Question the Questioner already knows the answer to is probably a bad question.”

After Cortright’s departure from the podium and the subsequent standing ovation, Janine Ogando, alumna and director of the Integral Alumni Council, said a few words and presented gifts.

“Despite his lofty language, he is approachable and he loves his students,” she said. After her departure, the audience clapped and cheered a second time for a man who has given more than half of his life to Saint Mary’s College.