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November 23, 2005

Hazo stepping down from post

“This is my last hurrah,” said Robert C. Hazo at last week’s panel discussion sponsored by the American Experience program, part of the University Honors College.

Hazo announced that he is stepping down as director of the program, which he founded in 1970. “This is my fourth and final retirement. But this one is non-negotiable,” Hazo told the audience in Benedum auditorium Nov. 17.

He will remain for an additional year as an adviser to the program, which has sponsored bi-annual lectures, discussions, debates and seminars featuring many prominent local and national figures.

Among the speakers the program has hosted are: George H.W. Bush, William F. Buckley Jr., Theodore Sorensen, Robert Novak, Shirley Temple Black, Tom Murphy, Milton Friedman, Geraldine Ferraro, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Dick Thornburgh, Julian Bond, Sam Donaldson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Teresa Heinz, Ted Turner and Janet Reno.

“When I began this program in 1970, the principle that guided me was that quality takes precedence over all other considerations. I cannot say that quality was always achieved, but I can and do say that quality was never deliberately compromised,” Hazo said.

A Pittsburgh native, Hazo graduated at the top of his class at St. John’s College in Annapolis. He was senior editor for political, legal, social and economic articles at Encyclopedia Britannica before coming to Pitt. Since 1970, he has seen the American Experience program transferred from the College of General Studies to the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and, in 1990, to the University Honors College.

Edward McCord, director of programming at the Honors College, was appointed the new director of the American Experience program.

McCord, who holds an M.A. in anthropology, a Ph.D. in philosophy and a J.D. from Pitt, is former assistant to the chancellor for academic affairs, 1983-1990.

Following the panel discussion, Hazo told the University Times he intended to do some traveling, although he plans to continue living in Pittsburgh. He also is considering writing a book. Holding his hands far apart, Hazo said, “I could write one this thick.”

* * * * *

Local leaders in business, medicine and journalism gathered here Nov. 17 to disuses the question: “Liberal Education in the 21st Century: Dead or Still Desirable?” The event was sponsored by Pitt’s American Experience program.

The six panelists were Robert Hazo, director of the American Experience program, who doubled as the moderator; David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Georgia Berner, president and CEO of Berner International Corp.; Arthur Levine, dean of Pitt’s School of Medicine and senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences; Gregory Curtis, managing director and chair of Greycourt & Co. Inc., and Schuyler Foerster, president of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.

In a two-hour, free-flowing discussion, the panelists for the most part agreed that a liberal education in the classical sense not only is desirable but necessary to lead a full life of critical self-evaluation, to wrestle with life’s eternal questions, to gain exposure to the great thinkers in human history and, as Levine put it, to nurture “the ability to retain two competing ideas in one’s head at the same time.”

Panelists lamented that a liberal arts education often is subjugated in the American educational system in favor of a push to train students for a particular occupation.

“Critical thinking is the single most important — and policy-relevant — product of a classic liberal education,” Foerster maintained. “It forces people to ask questions, to question all theories. Undergraduate education should not be about your occupation.”

Curtis added, “I think liberal education is and has always been alive, but always in the minority and always struggling. My 2-year-old recently asked: ‘What happens when we die?’ The impulse to grapple with large questions of life starts early in life and persists. But it needs to be nurtured, not stamped out.”

— Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 38 Issue 7

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