Philosophy Professor Peter Tumulty, advocate of the Socratic method, wins 2013 teaching award

By: Buff Lindau

Peter Tumulty"I consider it a 'success story' when a student comes to see more clearly why they, and all other persons, possess intrinsic dignity and worth," said Peter Tumulty, professor and chair of philosophy at Saint Michael's College, "when this has become so much more than just a politically-correct slogan."

Tumulty was awarded the 2013 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award, given annually to one outstanding teacher, as selected by his or her Saint Michael's colleagues. The award was presented September 27th at the annual Academic Convocation to Professor Tumulty, who has been at Saint Michael's since 1974. A teacher, first last and always, Professor Tumulty was cited for his patient hours of conversation with his students bringing them to recognition of difficult philosophic concepts. 

"What inspires our philosophy students most, I strongly suspect,” Professor Tumulty said, "is their own growing awareness of just how existentially 'deep' the meaning of life is. Our students are caring, keenly interested in community service, and eager to explore some of the deep ambiguities that lie at the center of our personal and social lives, all while having a really good time!"

He said his favorite course might be the first introductory course. "The metaphor of 'minds lighting up' often receives its most vivid realization there," he said. "It is very satisfying to show young students how philosophers like Plato, Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard can genuinely lower one's inner mental fog index," he added. "It is very satisfying to help free students to see more deeply into life."

Professor Tumulty praised for his 'skillful Socratic dialectic' teaching style

At the convocation, Professor Tumulty was praised in a citation written by his colleagues, that said, "Here is a teacher who sees that higher education is voluntary; he can't do it for someone, but he is ready to assist - with skillful Socratic dialectic in class, complemented by one-on-one sessions outside class in the office."

"Peter thinks that one becomes a philosopher by reading and rereading the central texts, taking them as a stimulus for reflection," the citation read.  

And said further, "You, Peter Tumulty, a gentle and kind man...  have taught philosophy in word and deed at Saint Michael's College for almost forty years. And all of us here are immensely in your debt."

Professor Tumulty and his wife Eleanor reside in Essex Junction. They have two grown children.

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