The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth

Volume 17 • Number 2 • Spring 2000


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Funding Medieval Scholars

College of Liberal Arts Dean Linda Krug, Vice Chancellor Vince Magnuson and Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin, induct Professor Jankofsky into the "Academy of Distinguished Teachers."

The Klaus P. Jankofsky Medieval-Renaissance Fund

            Late in 1999, the University of Minnesota Duluth received an anonymous gift in tribute to the teaching and scholarship of Professor Klaus P. Jankofsky, Department of English. The gift established the Klaus P. Jankofsky Medieval-Renaissance Fund, a fund designed to broaden and enhance students' understanding of medieval and Renaissance literature and the cultural contexts which shaped that literature. Jankofsky's 30 years of teaching and scholarship at UMD were imbued with his own passion for medieval and Renaissance literature, art, and music. The fund will support an annual lecture presented by a noted medieval-Renaissance scholar, or student field trips to cultural events related to medieval-Renaissance courses taught in the Department of English or an annual student essay contest.

            The gift specifically recognizes Jankofsky's "devotion to students," echoing comments expressed by many former students. They recall class lectures which set medieval and Renaissance literature within a larger cultural context of language, art, music, philosophy, theology and politics. They remember field trips to attend Shakespeare plays at the Guthrie Theatre or to see original medieval manuscripts at the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library. Thanks to Jankofsky's initiative, students and faculty alike heard intriguing guest lectures by the British historian Geoffrey Ashe, novelist Persia Woolley and others. Those who heard it will not forget Jankofsky's own slide-lecture on double-decker tombs and their relationship to the Middle English debate poem "The Body and the Worms."

            Jankofsky's teaching excellence and interdisciplinary medieval research has garnered several UMD and University of Minnesota system-wide awards, including the Horace Morse-Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 1992, the Albert Tezla Scholar/Teaching Award in 1990 and a Bush Foundation Fellowship in 1984-85.

            Professor Jankofsky encouraged his students to move beyond textbooks and test their own mettle as scholars. Many UMD alumni say that being Jankofsky's student transformed their lives. Invariably, they speak about how his confidence in their abilities nurtured them. Kate Maurer, 1990, now an Assistant Professor of Composition at UMD, attributes her own scholarship, teaching and theatrical interests in Shakespeare to her first undergraduate Shakespeare class with Jankofsky. "I was interested in text and performance, but I didn't know how to apply that interest academically," she says. "He showed me how. He also taught me a lot of the things I know about being a teacher. In his classes, his aura of polite formality created an atmosphere that let you know you were somewhere special. He made us want to do well. He gave us many ideas about ways we could develop our interests. He was a great mentor."

            Lance Fox, currently an English and math teacher at Medford High School in Medford, Minnesota, claims that he often feels Professor Jankofsky "standing behind me when I am teaching. I don't think I ever really understood the scholarly work ethic or felt it until I had him as a teacher. He instilled in me an expectation of quality that I try to instill in my students. He taught me that the enormity of the task doesn't matter; it's the goal that matters."

            Cristine Levenduski, now an Associate Professor of American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Goergia, remembers classes "enlivened by the depth and breadth of his knowledge, by his continuing scholarly engagement with his subjects, and by his genuine interest in finding ways to communicate that material to students of varying abilities. He provided undergraduates with what in the humanities is an all-too-rare vision of the value and excitement of scholarly research. Perhaps most importantly, Professor Jankofsky had high expectations of students. He designed courses that challenged students and encouraged them to pursue their own interests. He was willing to treat them seriously as beginning scholars."

            Teresa Falsani, now teaching English and drama at Marshall School in Duluth, recalls how Jankofsky prodded her to send a paper she had written on Parke Godwin's Arthurian novels to the author. "I had written the paper as an assignment for Professor Jankofsky's modern Arthurian course," she says, "but of course he was pushing me to work more on it and get it published. I resisted. He kept at it. He said, 'Mrs. Falsani, you must call Parke Godwin and get his reaction. You can use his comments in your paper.' I mail the paper, and Parke Godwin calls me about it. He's read it, he likes it, we talk for 30 minutes, and he promises to send me written comments. His comments arrive within the week, and they're salient and improve my paper. The paper subsequently is published. I feel like a writer/scholar and I owe it all to Professor Jankofsky.

            "He was always, in his positive Machiavellian way, thinking of ways to advance and push his students," Falsani concluded. "I owe a good deal of my positive self-concept and faith in my own brains to him." Jankofsky has supervised a number of Undergraduate Research Opportunity Projects (UROP) ranging from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Spenser. The projects consistently have demonstrated students' ambition, creativity and scholarship. Several of Jankofsky's students have been invited to present their findings at the annual National Council on Undergraduate Research. Lance Fox's UROP on Chaucer and time initiated his much larger exploration of the subject for a Plan B paper in UMD's English M.A. program. Jennifer Ouellette's UROP on Margaret of Anjou, a major character in Shakespeare's King Henry the Sixth trilogy, included Ouellette's interview with Cherry Morris, an English actress who portrayed Margaret in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the trilogy.

            Jankofsky recognized the creative possibilities of the computer as a teaching tool long before E-mail and the World Wide Web. Joel Ness, now an information technology support specialist at UMD, says that Jankofsky often consulted him on ideas related to computer-assisted learning and passed those ideas to his students. With Jankofsky's guidance and funding from UROP, Anna Shallman created a computer-based study guide for Book I of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene. Her guide, a precursor to today's webpages, cross-referenced and linked information regarding Red Crosse Knight, Duessa and Spenser's other mythic characters. Shallman used the MacIntosh HyperCard program, which Ness now describes as "one of the best hypertext tools predating the Web."

            Of the project and the medieval and Renaissance courses she took with Jankofsky, Shallman says that "Professor Jankofsky got me excited about Shakespeare, Spenser and Old English, word endings and all . . . . He asked the right questions and inspired me so much I actually went into the library and read up on topics we had discussed in class just for the fun of it."

            Clearly Jankofsky touched the lives of his students, inspiring them with his contagious enthusiasm for teaching, learning and research. He sparked intellectual development and encouraged them to achieve their potential. His influence is not limited to students alone. Jankofsky's distinguished scholarship, based on original research in Arthurian literature, death and dying and saints' legends, is widely known and respected. For Jankofsky, research is a passion. He does it for the sheer joy of discovery. When one envisions the ideal professor, Klaus Jankofsky comes readily to mind.

Co-writer Neil Storch, Professor of History, is Jankofsky's longtime colleague and friend. Co-writer Mary Morse, Assistant Professor of English and Compostion, took her first class from Professor Jankofsky in 1989. "In the years since, he has been my mentor and friend, always helping me discover my own talents and affinities," she said.

Interested in learning more about the Klaus Jankofsky fund? Contact the UMD Development Office at (218) 726-7989.

 

 

 
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