Metamorphoses: Staff and Faculty ChangesWelcome
Carly Kocurek, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and Media Studies
Joseph Miller, Sawyier Predoctoral Fellow
Matt Bauer, Associate Professor of Linguistics
Jim Maciukenas, Senior Web Development and Graphic Design Coordinator, College of Science and Letters
Susan Mallgrave, Department Coordinator and Communications Specialist
Karl Stolley, Associate Professor of Digital Writing and Rhetoric
Charise Angderson (TCID '12), has accepted a position as a product analyst at Deloitte, an audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services firm in Chicago.
Marshall Browning (TCID '12), has accepted a position as a business analyst with Deloitte. He will be designing user interfaces for the company.
Jim Maciukenas (Ph.D student, TECH), has passed his dissertation defense. He is currently revising his dissertation, "Toward the Development of Usability Guidelines for Single-Window Web Interfaces" and will graduate in May 2012.
Bob Ladenson, retired
Kevin Harrington, retired
Image courtesy of Wiangya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
IIT Professor of Philosophy Robert Ladenson Retires
Robert Ladenson, after 43 years as professor of philosophy at IIT, is retiring in fall 2012. He spoke recently about his years in the Humanities Department and of feeling "immensely fortunate" that he has been able to pursue a career in philosophy, an area that he has found to be so engaging and interesting.
He was an economics major as an undergraduate, until nearly the end of his third year when he realized that philosophy "was more me and just a better fit." Ethics, society, and law had been his interests since high school, where several outstanding teachers had influenced him. When he finally took a class in philosophy as a junior in college, the subject resonated with him. It identified what he was concerned about and allowed him to pursue the important questions as long and as far and as deeply as needed. When studying economics, his question had been "what is justice?" Philosophy gave him an approach to this question, but at first it was hard to find his niche within the discipline. He did learn fairly early that the kinds of issues that interested him concerning philosophy and law were so embedded in the context of American law that he needed to be very well informed in it, so he earned his law degree from DePaul University in 1980.
"My years at IIT have been a privilege and as I get older the extent of the privilege becomes more and more apparent to me," Ladenson says. In a school where he could flourish, in an environment that he considers to be a tremendously supportive one, the Ethics Bowl is his career lifetime achievement—"it's not every school where I would have had the support to devote the kind of intensity and concentration and time that I needed to devote to the creation and nurturing of the Ethics Bowl." Michael Davis, Senior Fellow at CSEP and professor of philosophy at IIT says the creation of the Ethics Bowl "is an extraordinary accomplishment." Vivian Weil, the Director of the Center for Ethics in the Professions and a longtime colleague of Ladenson's, added that Ladenson wanted to do something that mattered to the Center and was inspired by the College Bowl, a long-running television series that began in 1953. She believes that the Ethics Bowl, created in 1993, was successful due to his dedicated vision for the Bowl, rather than its being handled by a committee. Kelly Laas, Librarian and Researcher for CSEP, who has been involved with the Ethics Bowl since 2006 said recently, "It was so startling for me to see how Bob is treated a bit like a superstar at the Ethics Bowl competitions, as he knows literally everyone there—coaches who were former students, other faculty he has mentored who have now taken up organizing the competition, and so on."
Ladenson expresses appreciation for his colleagues and gratitude for the scores of "great students" he has taught over the years at IIT. Comments gathered from his peers and students make it clear that the appreciation is mutual.
Weil refers to him as "utterly dependable, reliable, and steady." She credits him, along with other valued colleagues, with being a part of the reason she has been at IIT for many years. "Bob is a very good person to have a philosophical, or any kind, of conversation with—he's a very, very thoughtful man and has a good sense of humor. His attachments to family and friends are deep and loyal and he is known as a defender of those he thinks are being treated unjustly."
Davis agrees with the observation of thoughtfulness attributed to Ladenson. He says while Ladenson has steadfast convictions, "if convinced by solid and carefully reasoned arguments, he will accept your premise and change his mind. He is not dogmatic."
One of Ladenson's many former students, Mihdi Vahedi, who is now in his second year of JD/MBA studies, was selected to be on the Ethics Bowl team when he was an undergraduate at IIT. His recollections of Professor Ladenson begin with an account of his involvement with the Bowl: "Being an engineering student, I was interested in the arts and social sciences, and Bob really first guided and inspired me to take my interests more seriously. Through ethics I got more interested in philosophy and started studying works like The Republic and Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals with Bob, after which I took some political science courses and became interested in human rights issues as well. While I worked as an engineer, I still pursued these interests, which eventually contributed to my decision to pursue my current field of study in international human rights and tax law at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln." He goes on to say, "Bob's continual support has contributed greatly to what I am doing today—no matter how busy Bob would be with the important undertakings and things he was working on, he still would always find time to meet with me and allow me to discuss or consult on an issue with him regardless of how much time it needed. Bob has always supported me as a mentor, a guide, and a friend, since I met him, and all along the way. Bob's conscientiousness, wisdom, humbleness, insight, and his sincere interest in the success of his students was noticeably and deeply felt and has remained very encouraging for me personally."
Another of his former students, Bipin Sen, offers, "Looking back now, what I remember most about Bob was his warmth and willingness to engage. He also never let his own personal opinions cloud or affect his teaching. I remember during an ethics course when the class discussion was on flag burning. This was during the week that the amendment had failed by a single vote in the senate. Bob helped lead the discussion from both sides, without steering it to one side or the other. People were passionate on both sides, and Bob did a great job moderating." Bipin went on to say, "What the Bowl helped me understand was that there are some values that are universal in nature, regardless of the cultural context, while others need to be looked at within the same context. Bob helped me understand that there is more to ethics than right or wrong answers. When you take a position within the grey area of some ethical problems, then that position better be supported by carefully reasoned arguments, instead of dogma."
For several years, IIT did not have an Ethics Bowl team (although Ladenson continued to be involved with the Bowl in various capacities) and it was through his influence that interest in the competition has revived. Students at IIT have successfully petitioned to have the Ethics Bowl recognized as an official student organization, after another of Bob's students, Kari Finseth, took part in a mini-ethics bowl in one of Ladenson's classes and helped revive a student interest in the organization. Krisanna Scheiter and Kelly Laas agreed to co-coach the newly formed IIT Ethics Bowl team for two years; Scheiter has recently completed her Sawyier Fellowship at IIT and will begin a tenure-track position in fall 2012. Laas and Stephen Harris, a Sawyier Fellow at IIT will co-coach the Ethics Bowl team beginning in fall 2012.
Ladenson is a born and bred Chicagoan and still has friendships from early school years. He loves the city, calls it "a great place." He feels it was extremely fortuitous to start an academic career in his home base and that being near family and friends and continuing old friendships was very helpful to him.
He's a jazz lover. He loves all kinds of music, in fact, but jazz is his favorite. He thinks he understands, "as much as an aficionado of music who is not a musician can," the importance of the seminal figures in any genre. He listens to these musicians from time to time, but the truth is he's more interested in what's happening. He enjoys finding new jazz musicians and the jazz he's drawn to changes as time goes on. His fantasy ("I don't want much") is to win a lottery ticket—it doesn’t have to be the "big one, just high four figures," he says with a smile. He would take himself to New York for a week or two weeks and experience a different jazz venue every night: "That would really be great." He doesn't know why jazz resonates so intensely for him—the music just connects on a primal level.
Ladenson sees himself continuing with some earlier projects he's worked on, only now with the freedom to choose and select that he didn't have before because of professional commitments. He mentions working on scholarly projects that have to do with consolidating and putting things together, without striking out on a whole new study. He is looking forward to continuing to participate in some way in the Ethics Bowl and says he would love to get all the different competitions together that he has been engaged with—the regional competition in Southern California that he is currently helping to organize, the Chicago area one he has been such a huge part of, and the national competition. Kelly Laas observes, "he really has touched a large number of people, not only through creating the Ethics Bowl, but just by being his normal patient, thoughtful, caring self."
Those of us who are privileged to work with Bob Ladenson know how very much he cares for his granddaughter, Penelope, nearly four years old now. From receiving songs from her grandfather over the phone when she was a baby ("I have a lullaby conference call scheduled for 9:00"), to sharing the current delight of watching the sea lions cavort in the waters off Marina Del Rey, she has been and will continue, with other family members, to play a central role in his retirement years.
As he looks back upon his career, he sometimes wonders how he managed the stretches where he worked 60-70 hours a week. But then he says with typical modesty "many at IIT did—they have been a very impressive group of colleagues." When asked if he will miss the very full professional days of those years, Ladenson responds, "whatever comes—I'm a happy camper." Classic Bob Ladenson.