Cherry Award Finalist to Discuss Medieval Saint Oct. 13

Oct. 10, 2005

by Julie Carlson

Dr. William R. Cook, Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at State University of New York at Geneseo and finalist for Baylor University's 2006 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, will deliver a lecture at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in Morrison Hall room 100. Cook's lecture, "The Head of St. Catherine," is free and open to the public.

"Catherine died in 1380 in Rome, and four years later the pope agreed to send her head and one finger to Siena, her home town," said Cook, an expert in medieval history. "The head and finger are still venerated and still on display. I am going to start with that startling story and a big picture of the relics. Then I am going to try to show both who Catherine was and why her head was so precious an artifact.

"I hope to argue that we can try to reconstruct how she reasoned from her writings and also why people were so excited about her head. Then, I will conclude with the belief that if we can learn how to 'get inside the heads' of Catherine and her contemporaries, we can use that skill to navigate the modern world so that we can try to understand how people quite different from us see the world."

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Cook earned his bachelor's degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., and his master's degree and doctorate from Cornell University. Concentrating on medieval history, he studied with well-known medievalist Brian Tierney and spent a year conducting his dissertation research in Oxford, Vienna, and several cities in the former Czechoslovakia. In 1970, he was appointed assistant professor of history at SUNY Geneseo, and in 1984 at the age of 40, was named Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Cook has focused much of his research on St. Francis of Assisi and has published a short biography and a book about Italian paintings of St. Francis that are housed in the U.S. and a catalogue of all the paintings of Francis. Additionally, he has published articles about medieval monasticism, Dante, The Song of Roland, and the teaching of history and humanities and is co-author with Ron Herzman of The Medieval World View published by Oxford University Press. He also appeared on a Learning Channel documentary on Dante and a Hallmark documentary on St. Francis. Currently, he is working on two articles in the field of American history.

Recognized from the beginning of his career as a good teacher, he received the inaugural Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching at SUNY Geneseo. In 1992, he was named Professor of the Year for the state of New York by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. He and Ron Herzman received the first annual CARA Award for excellence in the teaching of medieval studies from the Medieval Academy of America in 2003.

The Cherry finalists each will receive $15,000 and will present a series of lectures at Baylor during the fall. Each will present a Cherry Award Lecture on their home campuses during the upcoming academic year. The home department of the finalists also will receive $10,000 to foster the development of teaching skills.

The other Cherry finalists are Robert W. Brown, Institute Professor of Physics at Case Western Reserve University, and Anton E. Armstrong, Tosdal Professor of Music at St. Olaf College. They will deliver their Cherry lectures Oct. 19 and Nov. 1 respectively.

For more information, contact Linda McGregor at 710-2923.

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