“This person is an exemplary teacher-scholar who represents the best of the best among our faculty,” Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr., said at Convocation as he introduced the winner of this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Achievement as a Creative Teacher and Scholar. “They have taught an astonishing 23 courses in their time at TCU — an indication of their dedication to teaching and scholarship.”
The Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Achievement as a Creative Teacher and Scholar, which includes a $25,000 cash prize, honors a faculty member who demonstrates extraordinary teaching and scholarship. This year’s honoree is Babette Bohn, Ph.D., professor of art history in the College of Fine Arts and a scholar of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art who has published significantly on the artworks of Bologna, particularly drawings and women artists.
“The Chancellor’s Award celebrates faculty excellence in both teaching and research or creative activity — and I feel so honored to be recognized in both these areas,” Bohn said. “This award means a good deal to me, since I view teaching and scholarship as two spokes of the same wheel. Some of my favorite moments as a teacher bring these connections to life: a meeting with a former student applying to medical school who planned to discuss his inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci in his interviews and wanted to be sure he had his facts straight; a note from a gay student just coming out for whom some readings about sexuality in my Renaissance art class had been personally empowering; multiple emails from students who had finally seen the artworks we had studied on a European trip and wanted to share their excitement with me. Some outstanding faculty members have received the Chancellor’s Award at TCU, and it is a privilege to be counted among them.”
After earning a BA in art history from Northwestern University, an MA from Boston University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Bohn joined the TCU faculty as an assistant professor of art history in 1988.
“I never thought I’d end up in Texas, but Fort Worth had and has many attractions, such as its fantastic art museums,” she said. “Having access to great museums is a major perk for an art history professor, and I frequently take my students to area museums, especially the Kimbell — when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic.”
She also enjoys the lifelong friendships she’s made among her colleagues and the freedom to teach a variety of classes — 23 different undergraduate and graduate classes to be exact.
“It’s probably crazy to have taken on so many different preparations voluntarily, but I’ve never been a big fan of doing the same thing over and over again,” she said.
Bohn has taught for the School of Art as well as the John V. Roach Honors College and the Women & Gender Studies Department. For WGST, she twice taught the graduate seminar in Feminist Theory.
“Honestly, it was the most demanding experience of my teaching career,” she said. “I spent about 20 hours a week on that class the first time I taught it, but the students were wonderful and I learned so much. I began studying and teaching women and gender studies only in mid-career, but this field has led me in some fascinating directions that have enabled me to reinvent myself as a scholar and teacher. And the group of faculty and staff and students who engage with Women & Gender Studies are diverse, brilliant and engaging.”
Bohn is already looking forward to next semester and a new graduate seminar about women artists who work in unconventional media, such as etching on glass and sculpture. “I love learning new things along with my students,” she said.
Among her honors, Bohn received the Women & Gender Studies Research and Creative Activity Award for 2015-2016, the College of Fine Arts’ Award for Distinguished Teaching and Research in 2008 and the Deans’ Teaching Award in 2003.
Other career highlights include receiving two prestigious residential fellowships: the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Visiting Professorship at the Villa I Tatti; the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy; and the Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
Bohn has published scores of essays on Italian art, and her nine books include an exhibition catalogue on Guido Reni for the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, and her forthcoming Women Artists, Their Patrons, and Their Publics in Early Modern Italy.
“The two most exciting events coming up for me in 2021 are the publication of my book in February and my daughter’s graduation from medical school in May,” Bohn said. “She will be an emergency medicine doctor, and I am so proud of her.”
Dr. Bohn participates in a scholar’s day at the Kimbell Art Museum in January 2020.
More about Dr. Bohn:
Favorite artist to teach: Gianlorenzo Bernini
Favorite artist to think about and investigate: Elisabetta Sirani
Favorite artist to view their works: Leonardo da Vinci
Favorite food: Baked tofu and chocolate
Favorite book: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Favorite movie: Shakespeare in Love
Favorite show: Madam Secretary
Favorite flowers: Peonies, gardenias
Favorite way to unwind: Chatting with my husband, daughter or friends
Hobbies: Gardening, walking my dog, reading novels, going to the gym
Are you a pet person? Absolutely! The current love of my life is my little spaniel, Darcy — named after one of my favorite male characters in literature: Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy.
A surprising fact about you: I minored in English literature at Northwestern and took a full year of Shakespeare. I’ve remained an inveterate novel reader, and many of my closest friends and favorite people are professors in the English department at TCU. Perhaps literature was the road not taken for me professionally, but in some ways, I have remained on that road.
What you’ve missed most during the pandemic: People! Meeting on Zoom is just not the same. I also miss travel, but nothing compares to being deprived of human contact. Thank goodness, I do get to see my husband.
If you could spend a day with one person from history, who would it be? Impossible to get this down to one person, but my top picks would be Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Cleopatra and Michelangelo Buonarroti.