Brooks Otis, L.H.D. '77

Member of the faculty
1935-1957

October 5, 1996

Brooks Otis was born in Boston, June 8, 1908, to Edward and Marion Faxon Otis. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, received his B.A. from Harvard in 1929, M.A. from Harvard in 1930, and Ph.D. from Harvard in 1935. He taught classical languages at Earlham College from 1930-32, and came to teach at Hobart and William Smith directly after receiving his Ph.D. He started as assistant professor of classics and lecturer in sociology. In 1939 he became a full professor of classics and continued teaching at the Colleges until 1957, when he left to chair the Classics Department at Stanford and later at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Kathryn Cook, a past recipient of Distinguished Faculty Award, calls Professor Otis, “the most outstanding scholar/teacher by far, in every way, whom I have known at our Colleges.” She goes on to say that, “he was recognized in his field of classics even while he was with us, but he was also a polymath. It was his many-sided competence at high academic level that enabled him to originate and continue to master-mind the coordinate disciplines of natural, social sciences, and humanities into the Western Civilization program. You can scarcely understand how remarkable it was for Hobart and William Smith. It was one of the earliest and most thorough programs of its kind. Its procedures became the model for others.”

Just as he was highly regarded by his colleagues, so too was Otis esteemed by his former students. Associate Professor Emeritus Roger Farrand ’49, a student of Dr. Otis shortly after World War II, recalled that “his ability to mesmerize us veterans while lecturing about Plato, Virgil, St. Augustine, etc., was awesome. He introduced us to great books, and although we were all awed by him, we felt that he could be approached and would answer questions at length.”

Another former student recounted the staunch support Dr. Otis gave his students: “I was a few chapel credits short of graduation, but I had been told that at the faculty meeting at which degrees were voted, Dr. Otis threatened to resign if I were denied a degree. I graduated!”

He was a member of Trinity Church in Geneva, active on the National Council of Religion in Higher Education, and wrote extensively about issues involving “the problem of Christianity and the answer of Christianity.” He won a Guggenheim and a Fulbright fellowship, published numerous books and articles, and was a guest lecturer and visiting professor at several universities during his years at the Colleges. In June of 1977, he received a L.H.D. degree from Hobart and William Smith in belated recognition of his incredible career and contribution to our Colleges. He died in July, 1977, in North Carolina.


DFA RECIPIENTS

2018

Elena Ciletti

Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D.'12

2017

Jim Crenner

Benjamin Daise

Maureen Flynn P'09, P'12, P'16*

2016

Roger Farrand '49, P'78

Lois F. Nellis '46*

Ann B. Oaks '74, P'84, P'85, P'89

2014

Claudette Kemper Columbus

2013

Nicholas V. D'Angelo P'98

2012

Peter R. Beckman

Leonard Lawson L.H.D. '68*

Tom Millington

John George Van Deusen P'43

2011

Mary Gerhart

Joel Kerlan, P'89

Deborah Tall*

2010

Joseph N. Abraham, L.H.D. '81*

Donald L. Woodrow P'83, GP'15

2008

Valerie C. Saiving

William G. Hosking '47, P'74*

2007

Walter A. Ralls

2006

Valerie Kish

Frank O’Laughlin*

2004

John Loftus P'75, P'76, P'91*

Toni Flores P'94*

2003

Richard Heaton P'86*

Marvin Bram P'91, L.H.D. ’99

2002

Joseph DiGangi

Eugene F. Murphy P'74, L.H.D. '90*

2001

Ralph Bullard*

Kenneth Carle P'82, P'84, P'90

2000

Benjamin P. Atkinson, L.H.D. '86*

Otto Eugene Schoen-René*

John Lydenberg*

Lindsay A. J. Lafford P'65, P'71, L.H.D. '87*

1999

Robert A. Huff*

1998

Theodore Tellefsen Odell '20, Sc. D.'67*

Irving O. Bentsen '54

1997

Charles Delamater Vail '59, L.H.D.'04*

John Archer Silver*

Charles John Rose '76*

Francis Phillip Nash*

Joseph H. McDaniels, LL.D. '11*

1996

Abigail Mosey*

Brooks Otis, L.H.D. '77*

1995

John Muirheid*

Maynard O. Smith P'76

1993

Richard A. Ryan

William Pitt Durfee, LL.D. '22*

Walter Hetherington Durfee '08, Sc.D. '59*

1992

Elon Howard Eaton*

Edward E. Griffith, L.H.D. '88*

1991

Milton Haight Turk, LL.D. '38*

Kathryn Dapp Cook, L.H.D. '84*

1990

Horace Webster*

John Towler*

Hamilton Lanphere Smith, D.Sc. 1900*


* deceased

 

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