Richard Polt, philosophy professor and chair of Xavier University’s Department of Philosophy, is the inaugural recipient of the Roger A. Fortin Award for outstanding teaching and scholarship in the humanities. The award was established and endowed by Michael Fortin in honor of his father, Roger Fortin, professor of history and former provost and academic vice president of Xavier.
The disciplines represented by the departments of Classics and Modern Languages, English, History, Philosophy, and Theology, figure prominently in Xavier’s core curriculum and in the academic life of the community. Faculty play a unique and important role in the fulfillment of Xavier's mission of engaging students intellectually, morally, and spiritually and in the intellectual life of the University.
The Fortin Award was established and endowed to recognize "a teacher-scholar who – in the judgment of students and peers – is excellent to outstanding in her or his teaching and, in the judgment of the faculty, shows evidence of scholarship that is recognized and given positive evaluations by the scholarly community." Polt receives $10,000 and will be recognized at a public ceremony in the spring semester. Tenured faculty members in the humanities departments listed above are eligible.
“In his teaching and scholarship, Richard Polt has demonstrated that a professor can be both a creative distiller of difficult philosophical concepts and a public intellectual able to converse with a general audience,” said Tyrone Williams, an English professor, in support of Polt. “In the classroom he is able to elicit both gratitude for making philosophy palatable and excitement for making it relevant to the lives of his students. As a scholar his introduction to, and translations of, Heidegger have won him international accolades from scholars. At the same time his editorials for the New York Times have opened a “third” portal through he engages the public in philosophical debates. In short, [his] career is an exemplary model for how to move back and forth between different constituencies in and outside the classroom and university.”
Polt has been at Xavier since 1992. A resident of Winton Hills, he holds a BA in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and an MA and PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago (1991). His main interests are the metaphysical and ethical problems of Greek and German philosophy. He has taught elective courses on a variety of topics, including Plato, Aristotle, Kant, German idealism, existentialism, slavery, time, and Heidegger. When he writes, he prefers the method he has used since his teenage years: the typewriter. He has a collection of more than 200 of the machines. His oldest is a Hammond’s Number One from 1889.
“I was contacted by a Holocaust survivor living in the area who wanted to give me his typewriter, and it’s a Hebrew typewriter,” Polt says. “That was a meaningful gift. This man had used it to write the newsletter for a synagogue after coming to America.”