Dr. Stephen Bergman to deliver Phi Beta Kappa Address at May 16 induction ceremony

Dr. Stephen Bergman

Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony
Saturday, May 16, 2009
2:30 p.m.
Main Stage, Spingold Theater

Dr. Stephen Bergman, who writes under the pen name of Samuel Shem, will deliver this year’s Phi Beta Kappa Address at the Initiation Ceremony for students elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 2009.

The ceremony and Stephen Bergman’s address are open to the public and will be held on the main stage of the Spingold Theater on Saturday, May 16 from 2:30 – 4 p.m.

The Bulletin of his alma mater introduces Shem as “easily the finest and most important writer ever to focus on the lives of doctors and the world of medicine.” And in a recent profile The Boston Globe notes “he brings mercy to the practice of medicine.”

Shem’s classic novel, “The House of God” (1978), about the grueling life, lack of sleep, and ups and downs of interning in a hospital, was named by the British medical journal The Lancet as one of the two most important American medical novels of the 20th century alongside Sinclair Lewis’ “Arrowsmith.” “The House of God” has sold over three million copies in 30 languages.

His most recent novel, “The Spirit of the Place” (2008), about a primary care doctor in a small Hudson River town, won the National Best Book Award for 2008 from USA Book News.

Shem has been honored as one of Boston Public Library’s “Literary Lights,” as one of “Boston’s Best Authors,” and as a speaker at the Hemingway Centennial Celebration at the JFK Library. He has also received the Vanderbilt University Medal of Merit.

He is a graduate of Harvard College where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa already as a member of the junior class. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, where he was a member of Balliol College and received his Ph.D. in Physiology. He received his M. D. from Harvard Medical School, did his internship at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, and was a Resident in Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. He has been in private practice since 1977 and was a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School from 1977 to 2002. He was the Co-chair of PEN/New England from 1981 to 1987, and has been an affiliated scholar at the Stone Center at Wellesley College and co-director of the Gender Relations Research Project at the Wellesley Center for Women from 1992-2007.

The Phi Beta Kappa Address has taken on a legendary status at universities throughout the country, in part due to Emerson’s "American Scholar" address in 1837, but also due, in equal measure, to the many contributions that have followed. Notable persons who have delivered the Phi Beta Kappa Address at Brandeis University’s commencement in recent years include Justice Stephen Breyer and Scott Harshbarger, former Attorney General of Massachusetts.

Phi Beta Kappa: Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization in the United States. Founded at William and Mary in 1776, election is one of the highest academic honors an undergraduate at a college in the U.S. can receive.

The Brandeis chapter: Brandeis University fielded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1961, putting it ahead of every other university in America in terms of the time it took the university from the moment of its founding to the moment it became eligible to establish a Chapter. No other university in the United States has been granted the privilege to form a Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa more quickly than Brandeis.

Election to Phi Beta Kappa: Selection to Phi Beta Kappa is based on the following three criteria: (1) Quality of academic record (the GPA is an important consideration); (2) Breadth of interest (indicated by courses taken beyond a student’s concentration); and (3) Opinions of faculty concerning the scholarly achievements and character of the candidates, i.e., in the form of nomination letters.

Selection committee members and meeting: All faculty, who were themselves elected to Phi Beta Kappa as undergraduates, are members of the Selection Committee and are invited to participate in its deliberations. This year’s Selection Committee met on March 10.

For more information about Phi Beta Kappa, visit the society's Web site.

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