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Curiosity and the Katz

Philosophy professor Claire Katz is the first woman to receive the Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching.

by Heather Rodriguez ’04

In a time of misinformation, sifting through the facts is a necessary skill. That’s where philosophy professor and recent recipient of the Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching in the College of Liberal Arts Claire Katz comes in.

“Philosophy is about searching for the truth,” said Katz. “Philosophy is the oldest way of helping people become better thinkers. It’s incredibly important, maybe now more than ever.”

In addition to the recognition that comes with the chair, which awards outstanding teaching within Liberal Arts, Katz has the added distinction of being the first woman to receive the prestigious title. She plans to use the chair’s funds to develop new programs such as visits from prominent guest speakers, hosting symposia and conferences, and holding panels and workshops.

“I’m hugely grateful for a chair that is specifically devoted to teaching and that allows faculty to come together and engage in activities that will improve our teaching,” said Katz. “We are a college of extraordinary teachers and I would like to find a way to showcase that.”

Katz, who was recently named a finalist for the American Philosophical Association’s Prize for Excellence in Philosophy Teaching, came to Texas A&M University from Penn State in 2006 as an associate professor of philosophy and women’s studies. Today, she teaches philosophy of education, feminist theory, and philosophy of religion, among others. She has also established the in-demand philosophy summer camp for teens and tweens, a transformational teaching opportunity which aims to introduce middle and high school students to philosophical thought and dialogue. Recent studies have shown that exposing students to philosophy before college advances their mathematical, cognitive, and creative abilities.

“We teach them how to think about thinking,” Katz said. “They learn how to take a step back and think through the problem logically.”

The dedication Katz has shown to teaching over the years proves her more than worthy of this esteemed honor. And that’s the truth.

The late Murray and Celeste Fasken, formerly of Midland, Texas, established the endowed chair through the Texas A&M Foundation. The first recipient was Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., a now-retired professor of psychology, in 2000.