WMU News

Philosopher's Faculty Scholar award is 'about time'

Feb. 7, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Described by a colleague as exhibiting "dynamic, relentless brilliance," a WMU faculty member who is considered to be one of the world's leading and "most prolific" philosophers will receive Western Michigan University's highest faculty honor this month.

Dr. Quentin Smith, professor of philosophy, has been named the University's 2001 Distinguished Faculty Scholar. The award will be presented during the University's joint Faculty Senate meeting and Academic Convocation at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in Kirsch Auditorium of the Fetzer Center.

The Distinguished Faculty Scholar award, established in 1978, recognizes those whose work constitutes a significant body of achievement, most of which has been accomplished while a faculty member at WMU. Nominations are sought campuswide for recipients, who also must have a wide body of recognition beyond the University. The award includes a plaque and a $2,000 cash award. As an award recipient, Smith also will have $2,000 added to his base salary.

Smith, who joined WMU's faculty in 1993, is recognized internationally for his pioneering theories of the philosophy of time. According to Smith's nominators for the award, his 1993 book "Language and Time" established him as a "world-class authority on the philosophy of time."

"Every philosopher working on theories of time must take into account his theory and the novel arguments he has invented to support it," one nominator wrote.

Smith has branched out from the philosophy of time and become as renowned for his work in the philosophies of language and religion and cosmology. He is the author or co-author of six books, including "The Felt Meanings of the World: A Metaphysics of Feeling," "The New Theory of Time," and "Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology." Six more books are under contract. In addition, he has had more than 100 articles published in leading philosophical journals, which, according to one supporter, have 90 to 95 percent rejection rates.

"Professor Smith, in my opinion, is one of the leading philosophers in the world today," wrote a colleague in support of Smith's nomination. "He is barely at the midpoint in his career and has already accomplished more than most would accomplish in five lifetimes."

Smith also has been lauded for his contributions to his peers. One supporter stated that "Smith brings out the best in others."

"He is willing to carefully read, comment on and encourage philosophers to write the best possible articles for the anthologies he had commissioned them for," the supporter wrote. "He is dedicated not only to consistently writing philosophy at the highest level he is capable of, but also exhorting (and helping) others to do the same."

A fellow WMU philosopher pointed out that Smith has also done much for the stature and success of Department of Philosophy and the University.

"When Smith joined the department, the master's program was in its infancy. His scholarly reputation, as well as his individual efforts, led to the program recruiting highly talented students," the colleague wrote. "A number of these students went on to attain professional recognition of their own and the master's program is now ranked among the top 10 master's programs in the country."

Smith is the current editor in chief of Philo: The Journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers. He received Rockefeller awards in both 1984 and 1986 as well as a $20,000 award from the American Council of Learned Societies. His philosophical prowess also has garnered media attention, with Smith being featured in four PBS television and radio programs in recent years.

"The sheer quantity of his work is simply staggering," wrote a nominator and departmental colleague of Smith's. "Many of us are experiencing the effect of being in contact with dynamic, relentless brilliance, becoming ourselves better philosophers. And yet, [Smith] somehow conveys the feeling that we are all his equals and, indeed, his betters. It's a pleasant illusion he creates."

Smith earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1977 from Boston College and a bachelor's degree from Antioch College in 1974.

As part of his award, Smith has been invited to give a presentation to the University community at a Distinguished Faculty Scholar Colloquium. The date, time and location of that event will be announced later.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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