Joseph W. Goering, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Toronto, has received the 2015 Medieval Academy’s CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching on Friday, March 13, at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. A well deserved award!
Joe is a world-renowned historian of medieval Europe and medieval intellectual history, and one of the main reasons for the outstanding reputation the University of Toronto enjoys in the field of medieval studies. Like a truly great academic leader, however, he has shaped his field not only through research and important publications but also by his vital work training new generations of medieval historians and medievalists in other subfields (Theology, English and Latin Literatures, etc.). Since 1988, when he saw his first PhD student successfully defend a doctoral dissertation, Joe Goering has supervised no less than 38 PhD students to completion at the University of Toronto. One would have to add at least an equal number of memberships in supervisory committees in which he did not function as the primary supervisor. In no small part due to the passion and dedication he has for training graduate students, he has never taken a passive role after agreeing to be on someone’s committee.
When students and colleagues comment on Joe Goering’s teaching style, they often refer to it as the “Toronto school” or the “Leonard-Boyle style.” This is high praise. Leonard Boyle was a former professor at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (Toronto) who later became prefect of the Vatican Library. Like Joe (who was his PhD student), Boyle inspired generations of medievalists around the world by his brilliant intellect and his warmth. What is typical of this “Toronto school”? It is the awareness that really great scholarship in medieval history and medieval studies in general requires profound knowledge of more than one discipline and set of skills. This approach is also famous for the attention it pays to medieval source materials, in particular medieval manuscripts.
Joe is scrupulously fair, thoughtful, patient, and encouraging, demanding a high level of achievement from his students but never failing to respect their points of view and their own developing scholarly maturity. When asked about Joe, his many former students always mention how dedicated Joe was to their work and their success. His style of instruction – both at the graduate and at the undergraduate level – takes individual students and their background seriously. Joe always tries to elicit the students’ creativity, curiosity, and enthusiasm, while at the same time instilling in them a sense of scholarly rigor. It seems almost miraculous how Joe has been able to make his doctoral students the focus of his attention, while similarly pursuing a highly successful research career and doing more than his fair share of university service. He is a remarkable colleague – generous, intelligent, and warm – as well as a truly outstanding teacher.
As was written in one of the nomination letters: “Joe also taught us how to be colleagues, how to recognize the immense value of collaboration, and that one learns more by listening than talking. He led us to espouse an approach to interdisciplinarity that is grounded in open communication and collegiality. It is doubtful we will ever be as generous, optimistic, knowledgeable, and wise as Joe Goering, but we wish to emulate his steadiness and sincerity as a teacher, scholar and fellow human being.”
Congratulations and thanks to our wonderful colleague and professor!