Former students, colleagues celebrate Art Wingfield

The Festschrift honored Wingfield's mentorship and contributions to the field

Photo/Mike Lovett
It was called a Festschrift — a German term that describes an academic tradition of publishing a collection of articles to honor a renowned scholar — but it was more a celebration of a man who touched the lives of many at Brandeis, across the country and around the world.
Earlier this week, nearly 100 colleagues, former students and friends gathered on campus to celebrate long-time professor Arthur Wingfield’s storied career with research presentations and personal recollections. The so-called Art Wingfieldfest drew scholars from St. Louis to London, Toronto to South Carolina. It was organized by Jonathan Peelle, MA’02, PhD ’05, a former student of Wingfield and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Wingfield, the Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Neuroscience, is a pioneer in the fields of speech comprehension, cognitive aging, memory and aphasia and has taught at Brandeis for more than four decades. He has mentored hundreds of students, many of them respected researchers in their own right. Several of those former students were on hand Tuesday to toast Wingfield.
“He was an expert mentor,” recalled Stefanie Kuchinsky ’03, who worked in Wingfield’s Memory and Cognition Lab as an undergraduate. “Art’s door was always open. It wasn’t until I graduated that I realized how special that was.”
Kuchinsky is an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language. She still thinks about Wingfield when she works with younger scientists. 
“As a mentor now, I always have in the back of my mind the question: What would Art do? I remind myself of his patience, his kindness and his warmth,” Kuchinsky said.
The daylong symposium featured scientific presentations, including one by one of Wingfield’s first undergraduate students, Robert Remez ’71, now a psychology professor at Columbia University; and Wingfield’s grandson Cai Wingfield, a software developer in London. Between presentations, moderators invited former students and colleagues to share stories about Wingfield. 
Professor Jim Lackner, who joined the psychology department a few years after Wingfield, spoke about his colleague's friendship and support.  
“Art stands out as a colleague because I’ve never heard him say anything bad about anyone,” Lackner said. “He’s always been supportive of students and colleagues, and he was always doing his best for the institution.”
Professor Paul DiZio, PhD’86, the current chair of the psychology department, spoke about Wingfield’s guidance.
“Whenever we have coffee and discuss the department, he always gives me solid advice with a depth of understanding of the issues, the department and the institution,” DiZio said. “He always gets right to the heart of the issue.”
The day ended with the surprise announcement of the Art Wingfield Neuroscience/Psychology Student Travel Award. Created by generous donations from students, friends and colleagues, the travel stipend will help Brandeis graduate students in neuroscience or psychology attend a scientific conference or workshop.  
Calling the day “an extraordinary pleasure,” Wingfield was visibly moved by the announcement. “In every field you have different personalities,” he said. “But this field has the most extraordinary people.”

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