About 750 University students, staff and members of the Ann Arbor community stood and applauded as History Prof. Victor Lieberman took the stage to receive the Golden Apple Award and give his “last lecture” Wednesday evening in the Rackham Auditorium.
Sponsored by the University’s chapter of Hillel, the Golden Apple Award was inspired by Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos, a 1st- and 2nd-century Jewish scholar. The award honors professors who embody ben Hyrkanos’ mantra of living as if each day is his or her last, dispensing their knowledge through student engagement. The award has been presented annually for the past 24 years to highly acclaimed professors nominated by students.
“It’s very satisfying to realize that my efforts are appreciated by some people,” Lieberman said. “It’s an incentive to continue working and putting energy and enthusiasm into course preparation. It’s a recognition of the past and incentives for the future.”
The ceremony provides professors with an opportunity to give their “last lecture.” In his last lecture, titled “What I Think I Know About History,” Lieberman discussed the history of the world and his predictions for the future.
“It was an opportunity to play with some big ideas that I hadn’t yet formulated,” Lieberman said. “I thought I’d vent these large thoughts that I’d had for some time.”
University President Mary Sue Coleman, who was presented with the first Golden Apple Award for university leadership, spoke before Lieberman delivered his lecture.
“I am deeply humbled by this award,” Coleman said. “There’s nothing quite as important as being with students, lecturing them and seeing them grow as they progress through their academic careers and their time at the University.”
Prior to coming to the University, Lieberman obtained his Bachelor of Arts and graduated first in his class from Yale University and received his Ph.D. from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Lieberman has written four books, which have been acclaimed by the Association for Asian Studies and the World History Association. He has also published numerous articles and is working on his fifth book, to be published by Harvard University Press.
Lieberman first came to the University in 1984 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1991. He previously taught a course on Southeast Asian history and a course on the Vietnam War. He currently teaches a History 244 course on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
LSA sophomore Greg Klein took the class last year and said Lieberman was one of his favorite instructors at the University.
“I thought he was one of the most intelligent professors I’d ever had,” Klein said. “I think he’s a genius, I think he is a great historian, I think he gives great lectures and I think that’s why he won.”