Herman Bennett and Helena Rosenblatt Named Distinguished Professors, Highest Academic Honor at CUNY

February 1, 2022

Herman Bennett and Helena Rosenblatt

Professors Herman Bennett (History) and Helena Rosenblatt (History, French, Political Science, Liberal Studies, Biography and Memoir) were recognized for their outstanding scholarship and service to the Graduate Center and their profession with the title of distinguished professor, the highest academic honor bestowed by The City University of New York. The CUNY Board of Trustees approved the appointments at its January 31, 2022, meeting.
Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell hailed both scholars for their pathbreaking and influential studies, noting their impact at and far beyond the Graduate Center.
In letters supporting the appointments, Garrell wrote that Bennett, a scholar of the African diaspora in colonial Mexico and the Caribbean has created new areas of Afro-Latin scholarship. She also highlighted his “outstanding mentorship to students and emerging scholars.” Garrell wrote that Rosenblatt, an intellectual historian with a focus on the French Enlightenment and post-revolutionary political thought and religion, is “influential on a global scale and her scholarly renown continues to grow.”
“Being named a distinguished professor is an honor,” Bennett said. “It affirms the contribution my work has made to the histories of Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Above all, it represents the culmination of mentoring, fellowship support, and the importance of the seminar, but also the work of archivists, librarians, and staff alongside the collegiality of peers, young and old.”
“I can’t imagine a better job nor a better place to work than the Graduate Center and I’m absolutely thrilled and most grateful to receive this tremendous honor,” said Rosenblatt. “I will try hard to live up to it!”
Bennett came to the Graduate Center in 2009. He is the author of African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic; Colonial Blackness: A History of Afro-MexicoAfricans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianityand Afro-Creole Consciousness, 1570-1640. In addition to his faculty role, he directs the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC) at the Graduate Center.
Bennett is also widely acknowledged for his leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion.

He received the AHA Equity Award in 2012 from the American Historical Association for his mentorship of racially and ethnically underrepresented students in the historical discipline. At the Graduate Center, he served as executive officer of the Office of Educational Opportunity and Diversity Programs from 2013 to 2019. Among his innovations, he increased the size and scope of the undergraduate and graduate Pipeline Fellows programs. An op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education credited Bennett with creating an exemplary model for diversifying graduate education in the humanities and social sciences.
Rosenblatt teaches in the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. programs in History, French, and Political Science, and the M.A. programs in Liberal Studies and Biography and Memoir. In 2019, she was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to support research for an intellectual biography of Madame de Staël, a French intellectual of the 18th and 19th centuries, highlighting de Staël’s contributions to the founding of modern liberalism. Rosenblatt’s book The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century, about the changing meaning of liberalism, was named a Best Book of 2018 by Foreign Affairs. Reflecting Rosenblatt’s international prominence, the book has been translated into six languages, including Chinese and Japanese. The author of numerous scholarly articles, she has also contributed essays to The Washington Post and The Guardian, among others, bringing her research to contemporary discussions of constitutional rights and liberal democracy.
In addition to her award-winning scholarship, Rosenblatt has supported her doctoral students and her department, serving for close to a decade as executive officer of the Ph.D. Program in History, participating in multiple dissertation committees, and helping to develop new curricula.
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