Brian Copenhaver, professor of philosophy and history, receives UC award for emeriti faculty

Published: May 2, 2024
Brian Copenhaver portraitBrian Copenhaver (Photo courtesy of Brian Copenhaver)

Sean Brenner | May 2, 2024

Brian Copenhaver has received the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award for 2023–24. Copenhaver, a UCLA distinguished professor emeritus of philosophy and history, was one of two honorees, along with UC Davis professor Suad Joseph.

The award is presented annually by the University of California to one or more recipients from across the UC system; it recognizes outstanding scholarly work or educational service by emeriti faculty in the humanities or social sciences.

In its announcement, the UC noted that since his retirement in 2017, “Copenhaver’s scholarly output has been extraordinary and wide-ranging, including six monographs [and] 12 articles, with at least three additional works on the way.”

Copenhaver said his voluminous scholarly production since retirement has been a natural extension of the 22 years he spent as a dean or provost at UCLA and UC Riverside.

“During that time, I continued to teach — not a lot, but enough so that I never stopped talking to students,” he said. “I also kept doing research and publishing what I learned. That’s what universities are for: We teach students and do the research that gets published to help other teachers as well as students.”

His newest book, “Philosophy as Descartes Found it: Theory and Practice,” is to be published later this year by Oxford University Press.

“The book explains how Descartes made a revolution in philosophy by building on work done in the two centuries before he was born — the period that we now call the Renaissance,” said Copenhaver, who now lives in North Carolina but has continued to teach at UCLA. With philosophy professor Calvin Normore, he co-led a course last winter quarter drawing material from the new book.

Beyond his expertise on Renaissance philosophers, Copenhaver also is a leading authority on the history of learned magic. His “Magic in Western Culture: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.

The namesake of the emeriti award is Constantine Panunzio, a UCLA sociology professor from 1931 to 1952 who played an instrumental role in establishing the UC’s retirement system. Other recent UCLA winners include Judith Baca (2021–22), Herbert Morris (2019–20), Lynn Hunt (2018–19) and Henry Ansgar Kelly (2017–18).