Department of Philosophy Honors Hugh Benson
Twelve leading scholars of ancient philosophy gathered on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus last weekend to honor recently retired OU philosophy professor Hugh Benson. At the event, Seth A. Robertson was announced as the recipient of the first Hugh Benson Award for Excellence in Research, given to a philosophy graduate student for outstanding research over the past year.
Benson joined the OU faculty in 1985 and retired as a George Lynn Cross Research Professor at the end of 2016. His main research interests are the ideas of Plato and Socrates. He is the author of 30 journal articles and three monographs on related topics and has given dozens of academic talks across the country. He received many awards and fellowships, most recently a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for 2016-17. He will continue to pursue his research during his retirement, as he continues to work on several articles and a book.
When Benson announced his retirement from OU, his colleagues in the field of ancient philosophy decided to pay tribute to his work by convening a symposium on Plato. The event was organized by Russell Edward Jones of Harvard University and Nicholas D. Smith of Lewis & Clark University.
Smith praised Benson’s work, noting that it was “so well argued I had to go back and rethink everything I was working on.” Jones, who was Benson’s Ph.D. student at OU, said “no one has given me more of philosophy than Hugh, at OU and beyond. This weekend was but one small gesture of honor and thanks for Hugh’s gifts to many of us.”
Jones and Smith invited Rachel Barney, University of Toronto; Charles Brittain, University of Toronto; Eric Brown, Washington University; Michael Ferejohn, Duke University; Fiona Leigh, University College London; Deborah Modrak, University of Rochester; Ravi Sharma, Clark University; Christopher Shields, University of Notre Dame; and Christine Thomas, Dartmouth College. Each scholar gave a paper on Plato, touching on a question of interest to Benson.
Wayne Riggs, chair of the OU Department of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences announced the creation of the award named in Benson’s honor at the symposium.
“Hugh has always been a stellar researcher, but as a teacher he was dedicated to his students’ research as well,” Riggs said. “There’s no better way to recognize him as he ends his teaching career than to inaugurate an award in his name to encourage our graduate students to follow his example.”
Robertson, of Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania, is a 2007 graduate of Juniata College in Pennsylvania. He entered the OU philosophy Ph.D. program in 2013 after receiving a master’s degree from the University of Houston. He is the author of four articles dealing with Chinese philosophy. He is a dissertation fellow at OU’s Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing and is working on the ways moral judgments of a person’s action should take into account both the action’s effects and the person’s moral character.