Penn and a Big Deal for me

I’ve written before that I have the best job in America (April 30, 2008). But the best 14 days of the best job in America are the Tuesdays in the spring when I catch a 6:30 train from Washington to Philadelphia to teach my class in the Economics of Historic Preservation to graduate students in the Preservation Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

logo-744009I absolutely learn more from my students every semester than they learn from me. They keep me on top of the issues that concern young preservationists, the trends that I ought to be keeping track of, and they make me rethink things I already thought I knew.

So it was a big deal to me, a very big deal, to yesterday receive the G. Holmes Perkins Award from the School of Design at Penn. The award is named in honor of G. Holmes Perkins, Dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts from 1951 to 1971. It is given “in recognition of distinguished teaching and innovation in the methods of instruction in the classroom, seminar, or studio by a member of the practitioner faculty.”
Now had the recipient of this award been selected by the faculty I would have been pleased, of course. I have the highest personal and professional regard for my colleagues at Penn. But this is a big deal for me because it is the students who first nominate and then select the recipient. So it really is a big deal for me. And in the end (it’s sometimes easy to forget) the central purpose of a university is (or at least should be) students.
I have to say I’m a bit uncomfortable in the self-promotion business, and don’t do it much. But I’m posting this here because I am so simultaneously humbled and proud to have received this.
So thank you students, past and present (and future) and thanks to Penn, the Historic Preservation program, and its chair Frank Matero for giving me a classroom and students to learn from.