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Farewell to a Good Friend

The College community was shocked and saddened to hear of the July 14 death of Alan Berkowitz, Susan W. Lippincott Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and professor of Chinese.

Berkowitz, who was 65, had traveled to Mainland China and Taiwan in late May with his colleague and friend Haili Kong, professor and chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, leading 15 Swarthmore students in an exploration of tea culture, on which Berkowitz was an expert.

Visitors to his office on the third floor of Kohlberg Hall were typically greeted with an invitation to join him and chat over a cup of tea served from a beautiful ceramic pot into delicate pottery cups. 

At the College since 1989, Berkowitz was a popular teacher and mentor. President Valerie Smith wrote in a message to the campus community: “As the sole professor of Chinese, [Alan] exercised wise leadership and worked tirelessly to make the fledgling section into a vibrant program and became its first tenured professor.” Chinese is now the second-largest program in the department of modern languages after Spanish.

His colleague Associate Professor of Japanese Will Gardner said: “Alan exemplified the liberal arts spirit in engaging with his students in a very sincere and personal way.” His devotion to his students was reciprocated, according to professor of German Hans-Jakob Werlen. “The respect and love his students had for Alan found expression in their devoted attachment to him for many, many years after graduation,” Werlen said.