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Dr. Sylvan Barnet, professor emeritus

During his 30 years teaching at Tufts, Professor Emeritus Sylvan Barnet never experienced professional burnout. “I loved every day, every minute of it,” he says. The former Fletcher Professor of English Literature and chair of the English department didn’t even mind teaching first-year writing, a class he recalls many of his colleagues treated as a chore.

“In teaching literature, you of course enjoy hearing the sound of your own voice reading great material, and you hope someone is listening to your comments,” says Sylvan. “But in teaching writing, at the end of the term, you can see in the students’ essays that in almost every instance you have helped them to express themselves clearly and engagingly. You are entitled to feel a sense of accomplishment in helping your students.”

A prominent Shakespearean scholar, Sylvan served as the general editor of The Signet Classic Shakespeare, an edition used in many English-speaking universities throughout the world. He has also co-authored and edited numerous textbooks on literature, drama, and composition, including A Short Guide to Writing about Art, soon to be published in its 11th edition.

When Sylvan retired from Tufts in 1984, he shifted his focus to the Japanese artwork collection he and his partner William Burto began building in 1963. Over the years, they amassed a large collection of Zen Buddhist calligraphy, which has been called “one of the finest ensembles in private hands” by New York Times art critic Holland Cotter.

About his gift

In honor of his parents, Sylvan created the Esther and Philip Barnet Endowed Scholarship Fund for students in the School of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Additionally, he has decided to leave the bulk of his estate, including all copyrights and royalties from his published works, to his scholarship. Sylvan’s gift will carry on his legacy of helping to shape the minds of Tufts scholars.

“I have very good feelings about Tufts,” says Sylvan. “I want to help good students go there who otherwise might miss out on a Tufts education because they couldn’t afford it.”