Reception Honoring QC Political Science Professor Andrew Hacker
Monday evening, November 15, 2010
3 West Club, Manhattan
We are here tonight to honor Andrew Hacker because, after 50 years of Andrew Hacker honoring our profession with his intelligence, compassion, and wit, it is the very least that we can do for him.
This is a wonderful turnout for a singular man. Almost as impressive as this turnout are the number of people who have sent heartfelt regrets about not being able to be here tonight. I would like to read briefly from two letters I received, one from a fellow teacher and the other from a former student.
The great political scientist Theodore Lowi, the author of the classic book The End of Liberalism, taught with Andy at Cornell University. He wrote to say, “I regret not being able to honor Andy Hacker on November 15. Please extend to Andy my strongest affections and congratulations. We overlapped at Cornell for six years, and I can say that he was the most gifted classroom lecturer in my entire experience of 50 years of teaching.” That’s quite an endorsement.
And then three is Andy’s former student, Howard L. Reiter, who is now the president of the New England Political Science Association. While sending his regrets, Howard noted, “I first met Andrew Hacker in the fall of 1963, when I was a freshman at Cornell, enrolled in his introductory course in American politics. It was a subject I fully intended to major in, and the lectures Andrew gave, crackling with wit and his inimitable style, only confirmed my decision. Among the jewels that have stayed with me over the years was Andrew’s description of Republican conventions of that era, when delegates would lament, “Are we going to lose again?” (How times have changed.)
“When it came time to select an adviser, the choice was easy for me, and I got a chance to see a more nurturing side of him. Andrew’s influence on me carried through the years. When I was weighing a job offer from Lehman College, he played a key role by warning me not to come to New York unless I loved it; otherwise I would come to hate it. I ended up elsewhere. And when it came time to organize my own courses, I frequently looked back at my lecture notes from Andrew’s classes.
“As an emeritus professor, I have finally caught up with Andrew, although I will never be his equal. I salute Andrew, and wish him many happy and healthy years.”
W. B. Yeats famously said that education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. It is so clear tonight that Andy Hacker has lit many fires that continue to burn brightly, and what better compliment can there be for a teacher, or, indeed, for anyone? Andy has brought great esteem to the teaching profession, and for those who have not been fortunate enough to know Andy as a colleague or a teacher, they can still have the pleasure of sampling the man in his brilliant and deeply enjoyable books.
So what more can we say now but thank you, Andy, and may you continue to teach and write and light fires for another fifty years.
And now a toast to Andrew Hacker. An anonymous wit once said that a professor is a person who talks in someone else's sleep. But Andrew Hacker is a professor who makes students lose sleep because they continue to hear his voice in their heads, offering new ideas and questioning ideas they have long thought to be true. May we all have the pleasure of hearing the voice of Andrew Hacker for many more years to come.