Student News

Eric Widmer ’57 Receives Heritage Award

DiNicola, Danae – October 12, 2011

Deerfield was proud to honor former headmaster Eric Widmer ’57 with the 2011 Heritage Award at this week’s school meeting.

The Heritage Award was initiated in 1984 to recognize a Deerfield alumnus whose achievements represent a special contribution to the betterment of society. In short, someone whose life exemplifies the academy’s motto, “Be Worthy of Your Heritage.” The text of the award citation is as follows:

In Recognition of Outstanding Achievement & Service

Eric Widmer ’57

Before coming to Deerfield, you were shaped by educators closer to home. Your great-grandfather founded a boarding school in Istanbul. Your father founded a school in Africa, and your mother founded two schools of nursing, one in the U.S. and another in Beirut, the city of your birth. And yet your “life began to change,” you wrote, on that opening day in the fall of 1953 when you arrived on the Deerfield campus.

As a student, you embraced the world around you, participating in a range of activities. In the 54 years since you graduated, you have been devoted to education and inquiry. At Williams College, you studied history and served as senior class president. You earned your doctorate in History and Far Eastern Languages at Harvard, where you were a Fulbright Fellow, spending a year in Taiwan. History, language, and place have been both your legacy and your guides.

For 25 years, you served Brown University in various capacities, first as an assistant professor and then as an administrator.Along the way, you traveled extensively and learned many languages, including Russian, Chinese, and French. After leaving Brown, you returned to Deerfield and became the only alumnus to serve as head master, a position you held for twelve years–years you have described as the “most joyous” of your life. Your priorities of diversity, tolerance, and academic excellence recall your background and are hallmarks of your tenure here. As a historian, you brought Deerfield’s past into its present, knowing where to find and share lessons that would strengthen this community. In so doing, you created opportunities for the Academy to reflect and grow.

At the request of His Majesty King Abdullah II, you became the founding headmaster of King’s Academy in Manja, Jordan. Together with your wife, Meera Viswanathan, you established this school in the Jordanian countryside modeled on the values, ethics, and mission of Deerfield. You once wrote “there is not a day that goes by…when I am not touched by all the parts of the Deerfield community.”Deerfield, in turn, has been inspired by your service. Students will be the beneficiaries of your energy, perspective, and farsighted leadership for generations to come. Your considerable accomplishments truly exemplify the Academy’s motto, BE WORTHY OF YOUR HERITAGE.

Deerfield is proud to count you among its alumni and honored to present you with the Heritage Award.