MacArthur spark and a juicy Mellon for Social Thought scholars
Committee on Social Thought doesn't exactly suffer from a dearth
of scholars, and those scholars don't exactly suffer from a
dearth of awards. It's always nice to get another one, though,
and recently two Committee faculty members were surprised to
find themselves winners of prizes for which they didn't even
know they were being considered.
October 24, one week before her 30th birthday, Danielle Allen
found herself the youngest in a group that included a conservationist,
an optical physicist, a papyrologist, a concert pianist, and
a visual artist. The odd bunch-23 in all-were similar in one
respect: they had each just received a MacArthur Fellowship,
one of the most secretive-and lucrative-grants in the country.
associate professor in classical languages & literatures,
political science, the Committee on Social Thought, and the
College, was cited for her ability to combine "the classicist's
careful attention to texts and language with the political theorist's
sophisticated and informed engagement." This is, in a nutshell,
Allen's forte-she holds a B.A. from Princeton in classics, a
Ph.D. from Cambridge in classics, and a Ph.D. from Harvard in
came to Chicago in 1997 as an assistant professor in classics
after finishing her Cambridge degree and while still working
on her Harvard dissertation. She was appointed associate professor
in 2000 and received a Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate
teaching this past May, two months after completing her second
Ph.D. She also coordinates Poem Present, a series that brings
well-known poets to the University ("Chicago Journal,"
June/01). In September 2001 she gave the annual Aims of Education
Address to the entering College class.
MacArthur Fellowships-commonly known as "genius grants"-are
$500,000 awards paid out over five years with no strings attached;
the winners can use the money as they see fit and do not have
to provide research reports to the foundation. Candidates are
nominated by anonymous "talent scouts," and the recipients
are notified by a very unexpected phone call.
hopes the award will help her find more time to write. She is
currently at work on the book Being Citizens: Problems of
Trust and Sacrifice, which compares the views of Thomas
Hobbes, Ralph Ellison, and Aristotle on distrust, rhetoric,
and civic friendship. Although she doesn't know who nominated
her, Allen's first investment, she says, will be in "many
thank you notes."
Robert Pippin isn't sure yet how he'll use his prize. On November
6 he learned that he was one of the first five recipients of
the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award, a new fellowship
conferred by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Like the MacArthur
and the annual Nobel Prize, the Mellon award is accompanied
by an eye-popping figure: $1.5 million-about as much as the
other two awards combined.
the MacArthur and the Nobel, the money is actually awarded to
the University, where Pippin, the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert
Gruner distinguished service professor in social thought and
philosophy and the chair of the Committee on Social Thought,
will oversee how it is spent. Besides paying his salary, the
prize is earmarked to support research and intellectual conversation
at the University. Pippin is considering plans to support graduate-student
research, postdoctoral fellowships, and visiting professorships,
and perhaps to reinvigorate a program in which working writers
would visit the University to teach literature classes.
53, who earned his B.A. in English from Trinity College in Connecticut
and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University,
came to Chicago in 1992 from the University of California at
San Diego. A specialist in 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy,
he has produced six books and more than 100 articles and lectures.
He is currently engaged in three major projects: studying Hegel's
idea of freedom as a form of social life; detailing how Nietzsche's
misgivings about modern democratic society relate to the nature
of human desire; and analyzing a conceptual shift in aesthetics
in late 19th- and early 20th-century art.
Mellon Foundation cited Pippin for his "profound reinterpretation
of the conceptual bases of modern thought," noting his
ongoing analysis of the modern condition through the prism of
German Idealism. Citing specifically his book Henry James
and Modern Moral Life (Cambridge, 2000), the foundation
stated that Pippin's work exemplifies "the intellectual
breadth of the University of Chicago's famed Committee on Social