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Graduate School Honors Two Arts and Letters Professors

Author: Kevin Zeise

Theologian James VanderKam and historian John Van Engen have been named co-recipients of the University of Notre Dame Graduate School’s annual James A. Burns, C.S.C., Award for exemplary contributions to graduate education.

The two College of Arts and Letters faculty members will be presented with their awards during the Graduate School’s Awards Dinner on May 18, 2012.

James VanderKam

VanderKam, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures, is a leader in the field of biblical studies, specializing in the Dead Sea Scrolls and pseudonomous literature. He has edited more volumes of the Dead Sea Scrolls than any other scholar in the world and is the author of multiple books on the subject.

Despite his ambitious research agenda, VanderKam is also a superb mentor to his students, directing or co-directing 20 dissertations over the past 18 years. Among his students, 16 have earned tenure or are in tenure-track positions at such institutions as Calvin College, the University of Santa Clara, Canisius College, Fairfield University, McMaster University, and the University of Kansas. He has also served on the committees of an additional 21 students. In appreciation of his work, his students presented him with a two-volume Festschrift in November 2011.

VanderKam shares the award with John Van Engen, the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of Medieval History. His work deals in the areas of cultural and intellectual renewal during the 12th century, religous movements in the later Middle Ages, and notions of “Christianization” in medieval European history. Two of his books have been awarded major prizes, with the most recent, Sisters and Brothers of the Common Life: The Devotio Moderna and the World of the Later Middle Ages, garnering the Otto Gründler Book Prize, the John Gilmary Shea Prize, and the Philip Schaff Prize.

John Van Engen

As the director of the University’s Medieval Institute from 1985 to 1998, Van Engen was the architect of that institute’s rise to a position as the premier North American center for advanced study of the Middle Ages. He has directed 21 dissertations, with seven more currently in progress. His students have gone on to appointments at schools like the University of Alabama, the University of Chicago, Marquette University, the Ohio State University, the University of Oregon, Tulane University, and York University. Also beloved by his students, Van Engen was honored at a conference this spring, with a Festschrift forthcoming.

Named after the first Notre Dame president with an advanced degree, the James A. Burns, C.S.C., Award is presented annually for distinction in graduate teaching or other exemplary contributions to graduate education. Father Burns was the leading reformer of Catholic education in this country in the first quarter of the 20th century, with one of his most significant contributions serving to raise academic standards at Notre Dame by recruiting faculty with doctoral degrees.

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