Symposium Honoring Retiring Professor Alan Wertheimer

On Friday, April 15, the students and faculty of the University of Vermont honored the retirement of Professor Alan Wertheimer, a nationally recognized scholar of political theory, and a member of our University’s faculty for over 36 years. A series of lectures, organized in part by fellow Professor Frank Bryan, honored Wertheimer’s seminal contributions to University of Vermont, and to political theory as an intellectual tradition. The lectures began at 9:30 in the John Dewey Lounge of Old Mill, which quickly filled with students and faculty. When all the chairs were taken, people filled empty spaces on the floor, and lines even flowed into the hallways outside the lounge with people eager to partake in the celebration of a revered Professor. Three outstanding lectures comprised the Wertheimer Symposium. The first, entitled “Can Political Legitimacy be Coerced? The Case of Iraq,” was delivered by Professor Arthur Applebaum of Harvard University.

Applebaum discussed the conditions by which a person could be forced to be free, and examined the legitimacy of paternalism, a policy whereby a nation or a people restricts the freedom of another nation for that nation’s sake. Professor Wertheimer is well-known for his examination of the issue of coercion, and is author of an influential book entitled Coercion, in which he discussed coercion as a moralized concept. The second lecture was given by John Dooley, an Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, who discussed “Gay Relationships and Judicial Activism-the View from the Bench.” A few hours later, students and faculty gathered in the memorial lounge in Waterman for the final lecture of the symposium, entitled “Campaign Ethics: The 2004 Presidential Race and Beyond,” delivered by Professor Dennis Thompson, Professor of Political Philosophy at Harvard. Professor Thompson discussed the recent election, and emphasized that campaign ethics should be based on avoiding misinformation and manipulation of voters. A reception to honor Professor Wertheimer followed the final lecture. Wertheimer was recognized for having taught courses in political theory, political ethics, public policy, and philosophy of law at the University of Vermont for over 36 years. Professor Wertheimer has taught at the JFK school of Government at Harvard, has served as editor of Oxford University Press’ series in Practical and Professional Ethics, and served as a fellow in Harvard’s Program in Ethics and the Professions, and as a fellow of the School of Social Sciences at Princeton. Aside from his many other credentials, including authorship of several books such as Consent to Sexual Relations, and Exploitation, Wertheimer is considered by UVM students and faculty alike to have been a valuable part of the Political Science Department.

In 1995, he was named a University Scholar, one of UVM’s highest honors. The interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences spoke to recognize Professor Wertheimer for his many achievements. “Congratulations,” she said “on an outstanding career, and we’ve been truly lucky to have you here at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont.”