When Jonathan Peelle asked me to offer a few words of tribute to Art, I was more than happy to oblige. What an easy and appealing task: to sing the praises of Art Wingfield. And then, as I started to compose my thoughts, I realized the special nature of the challenge: any words I could offer would pale in comparison to the sheer, extraordinary fact of this gathering of people, from across the continent, in the middle of the summer, to honor Art Wingfield. What is more, you have come here today to pay tribute both to an outstanding body of work and to a special human being. Indeed, in Art’s case, the work and the person are inextricably related, for the work includes not only the research, the papers, the scientific advances, but also the devoted teaching and mentoring of countless students over the past five decades.
You certainly do not need me to review Art’s many accomplishments for you. You all know his pioneering work on hearing, speech comprehension, and memory. This appreciation of the brilliance and significance of Art’s work is clearly shared by both the NIH – which has steadily funded him for decades, including two successive MERIT awards – and the American Psychological Association, which selected him for the Baltes Distinguished Research Award. You also know – through direct experience or from conversations with colleagues – the care and attention, the knowledge and wisdom, the encouragement and support, that Art gives to his students and trainees. Or in the pithier formulation of one student’s course evaluation: “this professor is phenomenal.” For each of us who have pursued careers in science – and in other fields, too – there are one or two people we can point to and say, without them, I would not be where I am today. That so many people can say this about Art is a tribute more eloquent than any I can offer.
Brandeis is a university that prides itself on attracting faculty strongly committed to both teaching and scholarship. But to excel at both – to make a substantial and enduring impact on one’s field and on the lives of one’s students – is a special accomplishment. Art Wingfield is such a person. That is why we have asked him to take on leadership roles at the University, including Director of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems and Chair of the Neuroscience Program. That is why we awarded him the Nancy Lurie Marks Professorship of Neuroscience. And that is why this special gathering has drawn the eager participation of so many.
Each presentation today – from former students and trainees, and from other accomplished individuals in the field – is, in its own way, a tribute to you, Art. What I can add to all of this is, in a word, a resounding Yes! Yes to the recognition of your accomplishments as a research scientist. Yes to the acknowledgement of your impact as a teacher and mentor. And finally, yes to the unanimous wish that you will continue this valuable work for many years to come.
– Steve Goldstein