University of Vermont

George V Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award 2005

2005 George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award Recipient:

Stanley “Huck” Gutman
Professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences

Citation delivered by Frank J. Cioffi, Class of 1977,
President of the University of Vermont Alumni Association

Stanley “Huck” Gutman, for more than 30 years, your passion for poetry and devotion to teaching have helped instill a love of poetry and an appreciation of its lyrical beauty in successive generations of UVM students.

You joined the UVM faculty as assistant professor of English in 1971, the same year you completed your Ph.D. in English from Duke University, and began the remarkable journey of teaching and discovery that continues to this day.

A scholar of exceptional range and an internationally recognized authority on the poetry of Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens, you are also a columnist on political and international affairs for The Statesman, the leading English newspaper in eastern India, and a regular contributor to the editorial page of Dawn, Pakistan's most widely circulated English language newspaper.

But it is as a teacher that you are honored today. The George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award is awarded to recognize excellence in teaching and extraordinary contributions to the enrichment of campus life.

The nominations for this award, from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, all speak to your love of teaching, your exceptional empathy for students, and your gift for conveying with passion and imagination the potential of poetry and literature to enrich the human experience. We honor you today on behalf of the many, many students who have entered your classroom over these past thirty-four years — and in a sense, never left it.

One of your favorite lines comes from the last book of Wordsworth's Prelude: "What we have loved / Others will love, and we will teach them how." Thank you, Huck Gutman, for teaching us how.

For all you have contributed to the intellectual lives of your students and to the University of Vermont, The University of Vermont Alumni Association is honored to present the 2005 George V. Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award to Professor Stanley "Huck" Gutman.

Professor Stanley “Huck” Gutman on Receiving the George V. Kidder Award

In Walt Whitman’s personal history of the Civil War, “Speciman Days,” he writes of his experience in the military hospitals of Washington, D.C. Although he was a nurse and I am a teacher, though he spent three years at work in those hospitals and I have spent over thirty years in classrooms at UVM, his words have a special meaning for me today, and so I repeat them as I gratefully receive this award for teaching you and your fellow students at UVM: “These years I consider the greatest privilege and satisfaction, and, of course, the most profound lesson of my life.” Thank you, students of UVM, for the privilege of teaching you. I have learned fully as much as I have taught.

Let me thank you concretely by reading a section of Whitman’s great poem, “Song of Myself.” In section 46 – a long. long way into the poem – he tells us, his companions, that we must go out into the world – by ourselves.

Of course, being Walt Whitman, he says these words with a sort of caring that, it seems to me, marks him as a unique poet in the history of humankind. He puts his arm around our waists as he points out where we must travel, he says if we tire as we begin our journey we can lean on him, he tells us that before we take our leave he will refresh us with biscuits and milk. I love that offer of biscuits and milk: it is reminiscent of our years in kindergarten and first grade, when teachers gave us cookies and milk, when we were little children in our homes at breakfast and our parents gave us milk and toast. It makes the most vital sort of connection, linking us back to that bond of which William Wordsworth wrote so perceptively, that

surely must belong
To those first-born affinities that fit
Our new existence to existing things,
And, in our dawn of being, constitute
The bond of union between life and joy.

Those words of Wordsworth’s are marvelous, for they remind us that when we first encounter life in infancy and early youth, we are often happy; and that ever afterwards we associate life with joy, and so fit ourselves into the world in which we live with a sense of gaiety and endless promise.

But to return to Whitman. Just before bidding us to wake up to the “dazzle” of the life that lies ahead, offers us words I have tried to live by, and so should you: “Long enough you have dreamed contemptible dreams.”

Here, then, is section 46 of “Song of Myself,” which I offer you in gratitude for this award, as you set out on new roads yourselves, as you head out, joyfully I trust, into a new world:

I have no chair, no church, no philosophy,
I lead no man to a dinner-table, library, exchange,
But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,
My left hand hooking you round the waist,
My right hand pointing to landscapes of continents and the public road.

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far, it is within reach,
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds dear son, and I will mine, and let us hasten forth,
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.

If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me,
For after we start we never lie by again.

You are asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.

Sit a while dear son,
Here are biscuits to eat and here is milk to drink,
But as soon as you sleep and renew yourself in sweet clothes, I kiss you with a good-by kiss and open the gate for your egress hence.

Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Last modified June 11 2005 08:13 AM

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