It’s no secret that Kenyon professors mean a lot to their students. A professor’s influence often goes far beyond the classroom, shaping students’ intellectual capacities and moral vision—the way they frame questions and articulate answers, the way they understand values and choices—for a lifetime. “Professor Jensen is still the voice I hear in the back of my head,” wrote Hannah Kramer ’12, referring to Pamela Jensen, professor emerita of political science, and responding to the news that Jensen had received one of the two Trustee Teaching Excellence Awards at Honors Day this past April.
Jensen won the award for a senior faculty member, while the award for a junior professor went to John Hofferberth, associate professor of chemistry. The annual award recognizes “exemplary teaching informed by creative scholarship.”
Jensen, who joined the faculty in 1980 and retired this spring, has been a favorite professor and admired mentor for generations of students. Her coursework embraced politics and literature as well as political philosophy. Her recent research has been on Rousseau. She also won the teaching award in 1998.
Hofferberth, who came to Kenyon in 2005, is a bio-organic chemist who has won praise for his enthusiasm and intensity in the classroom as well as for research that consistently involves his students. His research interests include the synthesis of insect semiochemicals, substances that evoke responses in other species.
To get a sense of the impact these two teachers have had, the Bulletin solicited comments from some of their former students.
It has been six years since I walked out of my first Quest [“Quest for Justice”] class, head spinning, but Professor Jensen is still the voice I hear in the back of my head and whose teachings I turn to almost every day. She taught with a grace, patience, and wisdom that inspired, challenged, and empowered all her students. The time I spent in her office working on my independent study (some of the happiest memories I have from Kenyon) gave me a lifelong love for all things Rousseau; more than that, it built the confidence and critical thinking skills that have made me who I am today. —Hannah Kramer ’12
The first class for which I registered was taught by the ideal Kenyon professor. Pam Jensen generated a warmth that drew students to her class while also challenging those students to read great books carefully. Pam makes her students confront the deepest and most important political questions with her characteristic grace and mentorship. The thought of Professor Jensen teaching and leading discussion in the Horwitz House seminar room is quintessentially Kenyon to me. —Norm Kaufmann ’07
Pam Jensen’s depth of knowledge and dexterity of thought changed the way I read and think about Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Furthermore, without Pam’s guidance, wisdom, and support, which she generously shares with every student, I would never have realized that I want to read, contemplate, discuss, write, and teach political philosophy for the rest of my life. —Samuel Tyler ’11
On paper, Dr. Hofferberth taught me organic chemistry and lab. In reality, he taught me so much more. He taught me how to challenge myself. He encouraged me to question and inspire the world around me. Most importantly, he showed me how to balance a loving family with a rewarding and fulfilling career. —Margaret “Maggie” Taylor ’11
Dr. Hofferberth has had more of an impact on my life than I could ever sum up in a few words. Not only was he one of the best professors I had during my time at Kenyon, but he was and still is an incredible mentor. He has the unique ability of imparting knowledge to others without any hint of condescension. Since I worked in his laboratory for three years, I had the opportunity to build a relationship with him outside of the classroom. During our weekly lab lunches, we would talk about anything from our athletic endeavors, to book recommendations, to his travels after he graduated from college. Although I left Gambier only a few months ago, we have exchanged several e-mails simply updating each other on our lives. Dr. Hofferberth will always be one of the first people I visit when I return to campus and . . . an invaluable asset to the Kenyon community and the Chemistry Department in particular. —Clara Fischman ’13
Dr. Hofferberth has an uncanny ability to uncover each student’s weaknesses and strengths. He delicately nudges and tugs the student toward exploring these weaknesses and helps them build confidence in their strengths. To me, Dr. Hofferberth has not only been a teacher but a friend, a constant resource, and a strong guiding force long after I left life on the Hill. —Lars Matkin ’12
Professor Hofferberth’s biochemistry class was one of the most intellectually rigorous, fair, and dynamic classes I had in my entire Kenyon career. His syllabus was exemplary, well organized, diverse, and clearly reflective of his passionate interest in the developing minds of his students and his intention to teach above and beyond what is expected of a professor. His classes push students far beyond their previous ways of thinking, and his organization, guidance, and openness to the feedback of students made him one of the best professors I have encountered. —Camila “Cami” Odio ’11