Peterson is third J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar

During his time as a philosophy professor at South Dakota State University, Greg Peterson has encountered his share of bright minds and brilliant students.p19-Peterson,-Greg-(15)-4c300

“I’ve spoken to many students who are on promising job tracks like medicine or engineering, but who, nevertheless, feel frustrated by forces that hinder them from taking courses that are important to them as individuals and as citizens,” Peterson said.

In other words, doctors need more than physiology, and engineers need more than calculus.

“Besides my courses in philosophy, I have good colleagues who teach about, for instance, the politics of Latin America, history of military conflict or topics of contemporary and enduring relevance that are important and informative,” Peterson said.

“The more they are able to exercise the option to pursue such interests, the better off they and society will be.”

Peterson, recipient of the SDSU College of Arts and Sciences’ J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar Award, hoped to send that message about the value of a well-rounded university experience at his 2016 Herbert Cheever Jr. Liberal Arts Lecture.

Only the third SDSU faculty member to receive the award, Peterson said he recognizes his place in a tradition of scholarship that will continue into the future.

“I felt an obligation to try to deliver the best lecture possible; something that would help set a pattern of excellence for other presentations to follow or exceed,” he said.

In his introduction for the 2016 J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar, Dennis Papini, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that Peterson’s lecture could not have better timing.

“Critics today are questioning the value of the liberal arts,” Papini said.

Peterson’s response? “The liberal arts help students determine what is good, true and beautiful in the world.

“Education has always been important to me, and I’ve always felt that, while education is important for jobs, true education is much more than this,” Peterson said. “This is true not only for the humanities, but for the sciences as well. Both have practical impacts, but deep down both are very much about understanding the world and our place in it.”

Paul Baggett, a professor of English and SDSU’s first J.P. Hendrickson Faculty Scholar, said professors like Peterson are needed to meet the challenges the university faces in the 21st century.

“Greg embodies what all of us in higher education should value,” Baggett said. “Not only was his lecture eloquent and insightful, but it also reminded us that the humanities disciplines have always been, since Plato, at the center of the university.”

Peterson had the opportunity to further his own education while on sabbatical during the spring 2016 semester, and has added an impressive list of accomplishments to his recognition from the College of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to finishing a paper on debates over the positive and negative roles of empathy in moral decision-making and working on the final stages of an edited volume on the role of habit and habituation in ethics, psychology and religious traditions, Peterson is working on a book proposal.

Peterson said he looks forward to rejoining students in the fall and hopes those who attended his Cheever Lecture can move the lesson forward in the classroom.

Joseph Schartz

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