College Professor Susan Woodard: The Classics Foster a Life of Reconsideration

Ludwig van Beethoven’s autographed manuscript containing his own arrangement of "The Grand Fugue" for piano in four hands, Op. 134. The 2005 discovery showed that Beethoven revised his works throughout his entire creative life. (Sotheby's; The Juilliard Manuscript Collection)

When Susan Woodard, professor emeritus of music, was just beginning her teaching career, she heard a colleague declare, “Students today come to college to learn how to make a living, not to learn how to make a life.” The statement resonated deeply with Woodard: “Were students no longer interested in living a good life?” she wondered.

In answer, Woodard spent much of her 47-year teaching career, mostly at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, trying to awaken students to a good life, a morally virtuous life that would foster genuine awe and curiosity for the world and enable active and meaningful engagement with others. Such a life would entail a search for truth and beauty.