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Farewell to four Retiring Professors

Lillian Li
Sara Lawrence WEbLi.jpgLightfoot Professor of History
Year She Came to Swarthmore: 1974

Areas of Expertise: Chinese economic history; food and famine in China, Africa, and Europe; Japanese history and culture; and The Silk Road.

Lillian Li’s tenure at the College has been full of firsts. She pioneered the school’s Asian history program, the first-ever professor hired to teach that discipline and, in 1975, helped to form the Asian Studies Program, one of the longest-lasting interdisciplinary programs at the College.

A prolific writer, Li is the author of Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline 1690s-1990s (Stanford University Press, 2007) and many articles and the recipient of a number of fellowships and other honors.

At a recent celebratory dinner for College retirees, President Rebecca Chopp read a statement by her predecessor, President Alfred H. Bloom, about Li’s service to the campus.

“Lillian was a pioneer in inspiring and advancing Swarthmore’s outreach to a global world, through her teaching, research, publications, and early and continuing sponsorship of Asian studies and of our Chinese and Japanese language programs. … She introduced the valuing of Asian cultures to our community and motivated scores of students to make engagement with those cultures intellectually and professionally central to their lives.”

Deborah Kemler NelsonWEBNelson_1.jpg
Centennial Professor of Psychology
Year She Came to Swarthmore: 1978
Area of Expertise: Cognitive development

For the last 34 years, Deborah Kemler Nelson has been changing students’ lives on campus. In honoring her service to Swarthmore, President Chopp emphasized Nelson’s inclusiveness in her research.

“A highlight of this continuing practice of yours occurred in 2008 when an article published with two of your students in the Journal of Cognition and Development received the Editors’ Choice Award for its relevance, substance, methodological rigor, quality of expression, and ingenuity of ideas. I cannot imagine a more inspiring experience for our students than sharing with their model teacher such an outcome.”

Nelson, known for her rigorous scientific analysis and her sterling reputation in the field of cognitive development, was a Michener Faculty Fellow, a Mellon Tri-co Fellow, and a Lang Faculty Fellow. She also received the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award in 2002.

Larry WestphalWEbWestphal.jpg
J. Archer and Helen C. Turner Professor of Economics
Year He Came to Swarthmore: 1985
Areas of Expertise: Inter
mediate microeconomics, environmental economics, Asian economics, and a seminar on development economics

Having already taught at Princeton and Northwestern universities, Larry Westphal came to Swarthmore after 11 years at the World Bank managing the productivity division of the developmental research department. There he focused on the economic engines of emerging Asian economies, particularly the Republic of Korea and a half-dozen other countries that fit the same growth pattern.

“His view was that Korea is an illuminating example of state intervention to promote economic development coupled with a strategy of export-led industrialization. Though widely accepted, his analysis was controversial,” said President Chopp in honoring Westphal this spring.

“His rigorous explication of this radically different strategy has come back into favor as evidenced by the steady increase over the last five years (compared to the preceding 10 years) of citations of his research,” she added.

Westphal was well known for his high standards and intellectual rigor in the classroom. Although illness forced him from the classroom, the popularity and respect for Westphal and his wife, Dean Myrt Westphal, have been clearly demonstrated with a scholarship created by alumni in their honor.

WEBGilbert_1.jpgScott Gilbert
Howard A. Schneiderman Professor of Biology
Year He Came to Swarthmore: 1980
Areas of Expertise: developmental biology, philosophy of science and
the exploration of the intersections of science and religion

For more than three decades, Scott Gilbert has been living and breathing Swarthmore values, said President Chopp at his retirement dinner in May.

His signal achievement is the classic textbook Developmental Biology, first published in 1985, reprinted in several languages, now in its ninth edition, and the most widely used textbook on developmental biology in the world.

“Scott, you have been a model teacher and scholar for your students and your colleagues,” said Chopp. “Among the hundreds of articles you’ve had published, dozens were co-authored with several of your undergraduate students, learning firsthand the rigors of scholarship in the arena of scientific investigation.”

Gilbert is continuing a five-year appointment through 2015 at the University of Helsinki as Finland Distinguished Professor. He also serves on various editorial boards including the International Journal of Developmental Biology and was a founding member of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology.

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