Ben Callard by Eppie Boze

Ben Callard '93

My first day at Brandeis, I was standing outside a room in Olin-Sang waiting for a course called “The Ideal of Perfection”—I chose it because I wanted to know what on earth that title meant. A youngish guy showed up with a battered leather briefcase, who looked like he might be the professor; he waited with me and the other students for the previous class to let out, saying a few intriguing words to us in a hard-to-place accent. It turned out to be Palle Yourgrau.

 Over the next four years I took every class he offered, and I tried (punching far above my weight) to puzzle through his published work, and I went to all of his office hours—at first with my friend Roman Tsivkin, and then alone. We would talk, in his broom-closet-sized office, for, literally, hours—until the sun set. I still have no idea why he didn’t kick me out, but the fact that he didn’t has made an enormous difference to my life. 

 I got my doctorate at Berkeley, and I am now a philosopher at the University of Chicago; and every day I am in the classroom I try (with, I hope, occasional success) to give to my students the thrilling sense, which Professor Yourgrau gave me, of a great cosmic mystery—one which lurks in the most unlikely, and the most apparently familiar, places. I think of my time in the Brandeis philosophy department--my friends Joe Kruml and Dien Ho, memorable classes with Jerry Samet, afternoon conversations with then department administrator Eppie Boze (who once did me the honor of drawing my picture--see attached), with joy and gratitude. This spring (27 years after that first class at Brandeis) I am giving the keynote talk at the annual undergraduate philosophy conference here at the University of Chicago, on the subject of the ideal of perfection.