New UCLA dean to bolster humanities
Gabrielle Schupf Spiegel '64, formerly a professor of history at Johns Hopkins, was named dean of humanities at UCLA. Spiegel faces the challenge of preserving and strengthening the academic programs in the humanities, which include English, philosophy, musicology and more than 60 languages and cultures. "The great and abiding task of the humanities is to cultivate appreciation for the immense variety of the ways that peoples and societies live and think," she says.
Spiegel's love of the humanities emerged when she was 13 and read a book about the Muslim conquest of the Mediterranean and the emergence of European polity. She never wavered from her commitment to becoming a medieval historian, something she admits is "rather odd, if not downright weird." She was impassioned by the experiences of her family, who were refugees in Belgium in 1938. "In a sense I was looking for a past I felt I had lost, or one that was taken from me," she says. "Feeling myself deprived of the past, this was a way to master that loss, and in a sense compensate for it."
After receiving her doctorate from Johns Hopkins, Spiegel taught at Bryn Mawr, Penn, the U/Maryland, and again at Johns Hopkins, eventually serving as chair of the history department there. Spiegel says that her undergraduate years at Bryn Mawr "taught me to have confidence in my own ideas as well as to be certain that they were based on true and comprehesive erudition, a wonderful combination of demands, the memory of which has served me well throughout my years as a medieval historian. Bryn Mawr was my first and most important intellectual home. I loved my years there for their intellectual intensity and committment, especially as a woman growing up in the '50s. To arrive at a place that took women as serious minds was a revelation, something that remained pitifully rare in those days."
She is working on a book on the writing of medieval history in America.
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