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A quiet passion Prof. Tad Kuroda honored
Fashion police
How songbirds dress for success
Creative Genius
Heather Hurst '97 wins MacArthur grant
Front man at the Tang
New museum director
Winning number Of odds and iPods
Sharing worldly words Acclaimed poet Rita Dove
Smooth operator
The "voice of Skidmore" retires
Professoriat What the faculty are up to
Hall of Famers make history
Sports standouts inducted
Sportswrap Thoroughbred highlights
Horn of plenty Joshua Redman in jazz residency
Beatlemania 2004 The MU 345 tradition rocks on
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A quiet passion

HI 321: American Colonial History

Today’s case study involves David Brainerd, a mid-eighteenth-century student kicked out of Yale for suggesting that one of his teachers had “no more grace than his chair.”

Nineteen students, seated along three sides of a square of tables in Tisch 308, seem insatiably gabby—until Tad Kuroda, smart in a jacket and bow tie, arrives and sits at the fourth. After setting his watch in front of him and enjoying a moment of chit-chat with his students, he starts peppering them with questions, speaking as though it were 1740:
“Tell me about Yale—why was it founded? Who runs it? How many faculty members are there? They are called tutors—is that a respected title? What do we know about David Brainerd? Do you think he’s abnormal?” Ready responses (Harvard was getting too liberal; ministers over the age of 40; four; they play second fiddle to the president, but that doesn’t diminish their importance; he’s devoutly religious; yeah) indicate the students did their assigned reading.

After nearly an hour’s debate about Brainerd’s expulsion—in which students put themselves in the shoes of the Yale trustees and try to make their viewpoints stick—about two-thirds of the class votes to readmit Brainerd. Kuroda then reveals what really happened: Yale offered to readmit Brainerd on the condition that he spend another year at the college before receiving his degree, but Brainerd refused.

The students, who seem indifferent to the outcome, have argued well and listened respectfully to opposing views. Reaching for his watch, Kuroda gently reminds his young scholars that they owe him papers and then dismisses class. —MTS

 



Some “mortal angel” nominated him for the 2004 Ralph A. Ciancio Award for Excellence in Teaching, and history professor Tadahisa Kuroda says being selected was a special compliment: Ciancio “worked tirelessly for the college, and I have tried to emulate his high standards.”

Kuroda has been at Skidmore for thirty-five years, teaching U.S. and European history, expository writing, and interdisciplinary courses; serving as associate dean of the faculty and department chair; and being named Moseley lecturer, among other honors. He currently holds the David H. Porter chair at the college.

With his mild demeanor and decidedly mellow teaching style, Kuroda is apparently no less an effective instructor than his more theatrical counterparts. “You see the standard he sets for his own scholarship, and you want to work at that level,” says Zander Baron ’02. Students say his classes are tough, but fun and engaging. They are consistently impressed with how well he knows history and how accessible he makes his subjects—“even when they have traditionally been thought of as dry or boring,” notes Katherine Martinelli ’05. In his upper-level courses, Kuroda employs the case-study method of teaching, where students learn “to place themselves in the mindset of diverse peoples and understand why they thought and acted as they did,” says Nick Adornetto ’05, who proclaims his professor “one of Skidmore’s best.”

For his part, Kuroda is ever optimistic that his protegés are “bright, care about others, and will do well in their families, careers, and service to their communities. It is good to be a small part of their lives and feel that I am doing work that has real value.”

Director of Skidmore’s Liberal Studies program Joanna Zangrando says the secret to Kuroda’s success may be his ability to listen. “His ego is such that he does not need to dominate conversations. He truly values what others say, without being judgmental.” And psychologist Mary Ann Foley views Kuroda as a prime example of an educator “for whom teaching is much more than the process of disseminating information—it’s a way of life. People are well aware of his insatiable curiosity and pleasure in being a student of history himself.”

Kuroda is a prime example of an educator “for whom teaching is much more than the process of disseminating information—
it’s a way of life.”

Ken Hardy ’02, who spent a summer doing collaborative research with Kuroda, says he is as thoughtful and attentive outside the classroom as he is inside. “He’s one of those professors whose offices you walk into with a specific question and emerge a half hour later having not only had your question answered, but having also heard a great story and learned something about life.”

Jody Rose Platt ’86 concurs. “Even years after graduation, I still enjoy talking with Tad. In our e-mail exchanges, he still teaches—about life … which is, after all, tomorrow’s history.” —MTS