Before I ever met Susan Tifft, I had an inkling that she would be a wonderful professor. It only took about one class for me to realize that she would be the best professor I’ll ever have.
Professor Tifft was as warm, kind and compassionate as she was brilliant, respected and admired. When the Susan Tifft Undergraduate Teaching Award was created in her honor last year, it was announced that students had given her completely perfect teaching evaluations three different times for three different seminars, yet that was far from surprising. In fact, I couldn’t imagine anyone evaluating Professor Tifft’s teaching as anything less than perfect.
But, of course, it was Prof. Tifft’s genuine interest in her students away from the seminar table that made her so beloved. Her mentorship was never limited to the classroom, and often I wondered how she found the time to make students feel as if she lived down the hall rather than hundreds of miles away. Indeed, I learned as much from Prof. Tifft in our long e-mail exchanges than I did every Monday evening for a year. Our dialogues, for me, were an education in themselves. Good professors—the best professors—have a way of invigorating their students, of convincing them they can achieve anything, of inspiring awe and gratitude without even knowing. Prof. Tifft did just that and, as she always did, went beyond.
In her last journal entry, imbued with her typical charm and indomitable spirit, Prof. Tifft wrote: “I want my legacy to be all of you—my friends, loved ones, former students—a human chain of those who have guided and influenced me, and whom I touched and influenced.” I will cherish my small presence in her chain forever, and it’s a cord that will last just as long, stretching farther than she might have ever imagined.
Ben Cohen, Trinity ’10
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