Bergoffen Retires After 40 years of Impact at Mason

Bergoffen Honored at Convocation

by B.J. Koubaroulis

Bergoffen Retires After 40 years of Impact at Mason

During convocation ceremonies on May 14 and May 15, thousands of graduating students and onlookers applauded as Debra Bergoffen’s named was announced.

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Assistant Dean of Research Matt Zingraff announced Bergoffen as the winner of this year’s David J. King Faculty Teaching Award.
Bergoffen, who has received many awards in her 40 years of academic excellence at George Mason, retires as one of the university’s most decorated professors; one who saw the university change in many ways since arriving at Mason in 1971.

“Like many women, I did not have the possibility of moving around the country to find the right place for me as my interests changed, for my family was rooted here,” said Bergoffen. “But I did not have to. As I became more interested in teaching innovations, interdisciplinary work and serious research, so did Mason. You might say we grew up together professionally.”

A professor of philosophy and former director of Mason’s Women’s Research and Resource Center, Bergoffen has worked within the context of the continental philosophical and multidisciplinary feminist traditions, exploring issues at the intersections of epistemology, ethics and politics.

Bergoffen has edited several books and many articles in her area of expertise.
Her book, The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities details the significance of Beauvoir’s singular philosophical voice and examines the impact of her thinking on contemporary philosophical theory and current feminist thought.
She has taught courses in existentialism, phenomenology, and feminist theory, including seminars on various figures in these traditions.

“I've known Debra Bergoffen my entire career at George Mason. She has been, through all that time, ever helpful and ever thoughtful,” College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jack Censer said. “On academic matters, she has listened to my rather theoretically-challenged ideas and brought the reason of a philosopher to help me through my muddle. As far as academic politics goes, she's been a sure guide both ethically and strategically. George Mason will not be the same without Debra Bergoffen.”

Bergoffen chaired the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies from 1980-1987, was Director of the Women’s Studies Research and Resource Center from1998-2002.

“Whether it's about Simone de Beauvoir or human rights, the fine points of theoretical argument or the give and take of global campaigns for social justice - when Debra talks, people listen,” said Dr. Nancy Weiss Hanrahan, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Women and Gender Studies program. “And hers is always a thoughtful, powerful and deeply compassionate voice.”

Bergoffen received George Mason's Distinguished Faculty Award in 1989 and Teaching Excellence Award in 1993. She was CHSS’s Award for Scholarship winner in 2004.

Recently, a symposium was held in her honor. The April 16 symposium entitled “Vulnerable Bodies” welcomed speakers from Mason, American University, Aarhus University and George Washington University and examined the vulnerabilities of aging, disabled, intersexed, harmed and raped bodies.

“By bringing people together who deal with each of these issues, the symposium will challenge us to think about the body as an issue in itself,” said Bergoffen. “It will, I hope, be the beginning of getting us to think about developing an ethics of the body.”