“Confucius, Socrates, and other historic intellects searched for knowledge and wisdom. That ceaseless inquiry is what made them great thinkers. But they also inspired numerous students to join their timeless quest. That unselfish sharing is what marked them as great teachers.”
DEAN KEITH SIMONTON is known internationally for his highly original research on genius, creativity, and leadership. Strongly interdisciplinary in orientation, his work cuts across the sciences, arts, and humanities. Consequently, he has published in disciplines as diverse as psychology, education, sociology, anthropology, political science, biology, physics, engineering, music, and literature. At the same time, Professor Simonton has always tried to integrate his teaching and research, and not just at the graduate level. Besides recruiting undergraduates into his research program, he has actively encouraged students to pursue their own research ideas. “Undergraduates must benefit from attending a great research university. Otherwise, they may be better off going to a college where teaching is the sole priority,” says Simonton. “The joy of discovery is a far more beneficial and durable experience than the anxiety of taking a multiple-choice test.”
Born in Los Angeles in 1948, Professor Simonton graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Occidental College in 1970. He then entered the Social Psychology Program at Harvard University. Characteristically, his graduate studies were supported by two fellowships: the first, from the National Science Foundation, aimed at cultivating excellence in scientific research; the second, from the Danforth Foundation, aimed at nurturing excellence in college teaching. Earning his M.A. in 1973 and his Ph.D. in 1975, Professor Simonton came to UC Davis in 1976, and quickly demonstrated that both fellowships were well earned. In 1979, he received the Magnar Ronning Award for Teaching Excellence, and was promoted to Associate Professor the next year. In 1984 he published his first book, Genius, Creativity, and Leadership, and the following year was promoted to Professor. In 1994, in the same month that he receives the UC Davis Prize, his book on Greatness will appear. Between 1975 and the present, he has published five books and more than one hundred articles and chapters. During the same period, he has proven himself a highly effective teacher in introductory and upper-division courses, undergraduate seminars, general education courses, and graduate seminars on advanced statistics.
Professor Simonton’s teaching and research undertakings are matched by his diverse and conspicuous service activities. As Chair of the Distinguished Teaching Award Committee, he helped ensure that outstanding instruction on this campus was duly recognized. And as Chair of the Committee on Academic Personnel, he helped make sure that the most deserving teacher-scholars receive their just rewards. But the distinctive feature of Simonton’s service activities is the way they are so often closely integrated with his teaching and research. As journal editor and member of editorial boards, he can make sure that his laboratory and his lectures reflect the latest activities in the field. Frequently interviewed for the electronic and print media, he acquires useful materials for classroom presentation as well as better ideas about how to make his work more valuable to the general public. After all, Professor Simonton claims that his highest aspiration is to realize a coherent and successful career as teacher, scholar, and citizen.