|February 3, 2000
Volume 30 Number 11
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Lawrence Bryant, Outstanding Professor
Lawrence M. Bryant, Department of History, has been named by the Faculty Recognition and Support Committee as CSU, Chico's Outstanding Professor for 1999/2000. Bryant is an early modern European historian of international reputation. He is described by his nominating colleagues as a dedicated teacher, a skilled administrator, and a generous colleague.
He served as chair of the History Department from August 1997 until December 1999. He came to the department at a time when it was in need of leadership. According to Hissan B. Sisay, professor of history and coordinator of African Studies, Bryant brought a "collegial temperament and unique ability to build community and develop a sense of teamwork" that contributed to the department's becoming more cohesive and productive.
Bryant's work as chair was described by colleague Carl Peterson as "the natural culmination of the leadership he has exercised among us since coming to Chico -- revitalizing the curriculum in imaginative ways, organizing ways to attract and encourage gifted students, developing a master's program, and finding ways for members of the facultyŠto make their way to the productive center of the department."
As chair, Bryant founded the Friends of History Series. This year's series, The Millennium and the Historian's Understanding of Society and Culture, has been well attended by faculty, students, and community. Bryant said his intention is to provide a forum for intellectual exchange and an opportunity to experience the high level of scholarship among historians on campus.
Bryant's consistent energy and efforts toward creating a "community of scholars" was referred to frequently by his supporters for the award. He was commended for his commitment to the professional lives of others, his lively interest in and attentiveness to faculty and students and their work, and his contributions to creating a vibrant academic community.
Bryant says he works with students as if they are capable of being the best there are. He came to Chico after teaching at both Harvard and Stanford and describes Chico students as suffering, too often, from not setting high enough standards for themselves, and, perhaps, from a reluctance to be challenged. He has found, however, that engagement in learning changes that.
In teaching, Bryant's mission is "to awaken students' sense of themselves in the world." That requires, he says, a sense of history. One of his favorite authors is Montaigne, with whom he shares the belief that to be fully educated means to connect to oneself as a moral being. Education deals with what we know, how we get to know what we know, and how what we know should guide us in our choices as human beings.
Former student Luke Kornbluh, a Ph.D. history candidate at Rutgers University, attributes his pursuit of historical knowledge to Bryant's efforts at placing him in a graduate program. Kornbluh esteems Bryant's work in ceremony, ritual, and performance as an important contribution toward a new way of conceptualizing early modern politics. He describes a "historical rigor" that anchors an "anthropological dimension" in Bryant's work, and found, as his student, the two stimulating and inspiring.
Bryant's scholarly reputation was firmly established, said history and law professor Sarah Hanley, University of Iowa, with the publication of his book The King and the City in the Parisian Royal Ceremony: Politics, Art, and Ritual in the Renaissance. Among his academic honors are membership in the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton (1989-90) and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to the Folger Shakespeare Library (1993-94). He has served as the president of the Society for French Historical Studies and as section editor for "France: 1450-1789" in the American Historical Association Guide to Historical Literature (Oxford, 1996).
Bryant is the author of numerous articles on court ceremonies in medieval and Renaissance France, the most recent of which appeared in Changing Identities in Early Modern France (Duke University Press, 1997). Bryant just completed the manuscript "What Face to Put On?' Splendid Extravagances, Royal Authority, and Louis XI's Ceremonies," for a special collection titled Word, Image, Number: Communication in the Middle Ages. In his words, he has spent most of his career attempting to understand how people act in the public arena and how the performative aspects of Renaissance life have contributed to modern forms of political behavior.
Bryant grew up on an island off the coast of Georgia. He obtained his B.A. from Emory University in Atlanta, and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
Lawrence Bryant is, by his friends' accounts, a warm, hospitable, and generous colleague who has contributed to the vitality of the intellectual life of the university. Said one close friend, "The community of scholars, in which he believes passionately, is for him no empty ideal; Larry makes one wherever he goes." -- KM
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