The John M. Dolan Professorship in Philosophy is used to retain and recruit distinguished faculty in the Philosophy department. Asher Waldfogel, B.A. '79, established the endowment to honor his mentor, the late Professor John M. Dolan, whose wise counsel at critical moments gave direction to Asher's career. Subsequently, other alumni and friends have contributed to the fund, solidifying the award's prestige and positive impact.
John Dolan was born in New York City. He earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy at Brooklyn College in 1959. (While earning his degree, he worked full time for three years on the Brooklyn waterfront as a member of the International Longshoreman's Union.) He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Stanford University in 1969; his thesis was "Translation and Meaning: An Examination of Quine's Translational Indeterminacy Hypothesis," supervised by Donald Davidson. Before joining the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Professor Dolan held positions in teaching (mathematics, computer science, and philosophy) and in research (into computational linguistics, meteorology, and philosophy) at Brooklyn College, MIT, the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller University, and Swarthmore College. He served for three years as associate editor of the MIT journal Computational Linguistics and Mechanical Translation.
At the University of Minnesota he co-founded (with Dr. Hymie Gordon, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, and Professor Elizabeth Anscombe of Cambridge University) the Program in Human Rights and Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health. He taught and served as course director for courses in medical ethics at the Medical School. He taught medical ethics at the Mayo Medical School. He occasionally co taught a course in medical ethics, "Our Obligations toward Various Forms of Life," in the University of Minnesota's Law School. For seven years he co-edited the Thoreau Quarterly.
His publications include a logic book, Inference and Imagination (Archimedean Point Press, 1994), with a memorably witty chapter on fallacies, and articles on medical ethics, philosophy of language, moral philosophy, media studies, pedagogy, and epistemology. Two publications that particularly represent his intense convictions are, "Is Physician Assisted Suicide Possible?" Duquesne Law Review 35 (1996) and "Death by Deliberate Dehydration and Starvation: Silent Echoes of the Hungerhäuser," Issues in Law and Medicine 7 (1991). Some equally expressive online publications of his are his obituary notice for G.E.M. Anscombe in First Things: the Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life (May 2001) and an abstract of his Inaugural Address, "On Stewardship," in 2001 at the Chuo Research Institute for Global Environment at Chuo University in Japan.
He held the Morse-Amoco Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Teaching and was a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Some of his success as an inspiring teacher must be credited to his entirely unearned qualities of imposing physical presence and voice, lightning-quick wit, and talent as a mimic equal to that of the best stand up comedians. But most of that success came from his dedication, his genuine appreciation of his students, and his deep feeling that teaching was a solemn responsibility. In one of his essays, "On Learning to Teach," he asks for "respect for the intelligence and unfathomability of your student, a strong sense of his possibilities for growth."
Tribute consists of excerpts originally published in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol. 79, No. 5(May, 2006), pp. 121–123.