Breitborde Delivers 'Last Lecture' as Knox Dean

June 04, 2013

Lawrence Breitborde

by Laura Pochodylo '14

As he prepares to step down from his position as Dean of the College, Lawrence Breitborde delivered a lecture as part of the Last Lecture series presented by Mortar Board.

Breitborde's May 21 address focused on the importance of the faculty and student relationships at Knox College, something he has observed in his 18 years as an administrator at Knox.

He focused on the "taken-for-grantedness of the college experience," and how easily both students and faculty take for granted their time together.

"The College runs on relationships," Breitborde said.Lawrence Breitborde

In the first part of his speech, titled "What Is the College and What Will It Be When It Grows Up," he discussed how curriculum transforms over time, and how it is a faculty's responsibility to allow the curriculum to keep up with wider culture and students' needs.

"The college isn't finished yet, and it's not frozen," Breitborde said.

In the second portion of Breitborde's speech, "Institutions Are People, Too," he discussed how faculty and students experience the institution in "different timescapes."

"The student's four-year timescape creates an intensity and urgency," Breitborde said. "You as students exist for us in a constant future tense."

He also discussed the importance of recognizing the uniqueness of all of the individuals who make up a liberal arts institution at any time.

"We all have lives bigger than our labels of ‘student' and ‘faculty,'" Breitborde said.

Breitborde reminded the audience that although the lecture series is titled the Last Lecture, he looks forward to returning to delivering lectures in the classroom. He will teach at Knox as a professor of anthropology and sociology following a year-long sabbatical conducting research in Liberia.

He ended his address by quoting from E.B. Devito's poem, "Graduates."

Students and faculty members said they enjoyed hearing Breitborde's lecture.

"Larry is always inspiring and heartwarming. I loved his poem at the end," said Brenda Fineberg, professor and chair of classics, who has been at Knox throughout Breitborde's tenure as dean. "His overarching message of the reciprocity between faculty and students that drives this place is something that we all need to be reminded of."

Some students, like Natalia Binkowski, a junior from Franklin Park, Illinois, found his words helpful to their current role as liberal arts students.

"It really helped put my four years here in perspective, in terms of what I'm learning and why I'm learning it," Binkowski said.

Bekah Lauer, a Gender and Women's Studies major from Ann Arbor, Michigan, felt that Breitborde's address reminded her of how unique Knox is.

"For me, it connected to my time at Knox. It confirmed how great Knox is, especially in those moments where you're contemplating why you're here," Lauer said. "This is exactly what I needed to hear. It was a great reminder of why I love Knox as an institution."