by Tony Moore
“The first time I walked into Professor Moffat’s office in East College, I wondered if she was continuously absorbing knowledge by sitting among all the books in there,” says Nicola Shackman-Ryden ’17. And anyone who knows Moffat, a professor of English at Dickinson since 1984, would probably say yes, she has (psychically or otherwise) absorbed every scholarly item she’s been in touch with over the years. And she’s an academic wonder in transmitting all of it to her students.
“She has a way of sprinkling seeds of knowledge and understanding so they grow within you for years,” says Shackman-Ryden, who calls Moffat’s course on James Joyce “one of the more daunting and rewarding classes I’ve taken.”
Now, for the cumulative effect Moffat has had on the college and her students, she has become the second incumbent of the John J. Curley ’60 and Ann Conser Curley ’63 Faculty Chair in Global Education.
The endowed chair was established in 2003 by the Curleys to honor a distinguished member of the faculty whose teaching and scholarship contribute to the college’s strategic efforts in global education. “John and Ann really love the college, and they have done so ever since they were undergraduates here,” Moffat says, noting that the chair has already allowed her to embark on a trip to the University of London archives, where she is researching the history of medicine for her new book. “[The endowed chair] is a way to give back in a concrete way that’s extremely meaningful for faculty—it’s kind of a psychic devotion to the college, to the heart of what the college is about. What’s important to [the Curleys] about Dickinson is important to me about Dickinson, so this honor feels like an affirmation.”
An endowed chair is the highest academic honor awarded to a faculty member, and it’s one that Moffat has earned in unique ways over the course of her career.
“Wendy is an exceptional teacher-scholar, with outstanding contributions in several areas,” says Associate Professor of Computer Science John MacCormick, who chairs the Faculty Personnel Committee, the group charged with endowed chair appointments. “Her prize-winning work on E.M. Forster has had a major impact, praised by critics in several of the most influential literary publications. And she has been instrumental in establishing and growing Dickinson’s study-abroad program in England, which has met with great success.”
Besides founding Dickinson’s program at Oxford University’s Mansfield College, Moffat has run other Dickinson abroad programs and made a worldwide name for herself through her biography A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster. That work won the Biographer’s Club Prize for Best First Biography (U.K.), was named runner-up for the PEN Biography Prize (U.S.) and was named a Top Ten Book of 2010 by Janet Maslin in The New York Times.
The Curley Chair in Global Education is the third of such chairs established by the Curleys: the John J. Curley ’60 and Ann Conser Curley ’63 Faculty Chair was established in 2002, and the John J. Curley ’60 and Ann Conser Curley ’63 Faculty Chair in International Studies, Business and Management was established in 2003. Moffat says the couple’s devotion to the college is always on display.
“The last time I saw them, they were in the library, looking at the newly acquired first editions of John Milton’s poems,” Moffat recalls. “When you see a trustee at those kinds of demonstrations and ubiquitously across campus, you have this sense of their presence in things all the time. [Ann and John embody] that quality of staying connected to the things that matter here.”
Published April 5, 2017