Harvey Teres is Dean’s Professor for the Public Humanities in English at Syracuse University. The son of a U.S. customs examiner and a homemaker, he was born in the Bronx and raised in Los Angeles. After attending Monroe High School and Cornell University, he spent six years working as an activist and labor organizer in various factories in the Chicago area, including Rheem, GE Hotpoint, and U.S. Steel. He earned his doctorate in English from the University of Chicago in 1985, after which he taught at Princeton University and, for the past twenty-five years, at Syracuse University, where he has served as Director of the Jewish Studies Program, the first Faculty Representative to the Board of Trustees, and Director of Graduate Studies. He currently teaches courses in modern and contemporary American literature and culture, world literature, and the Holocaust in American literature.
“…early in my life I spent six years working in Chicago factories alongside a lot of intelligent, articulate, funny, and profane people. As a millwright apprentice at U.S. Steel, Southworks I spent hours listening to the stories and wisdom of so-called 'uneducated' steelworkers.”
Teres has devoted his career to making the humanities matter to all Americans by building partnerships between higher education and the broader public. He has encouraged many of his students to engage with others in the surrounding community by presenting innovative and interactive programs in which they share content from the classroom, a method of learning he calls “travelling teaching.” Some years ago he helped lead a successful effort to revise the tenure and promotion policy to reward scholars doing publicly engaged scholarship, putting Syracuse University in the forefront of efforts to promote the public humanities and bring needed changes to American higher education.
In his books and many articles Teres has always emphasized the contributions that scholars make to the public’s discussions of its problems. Perhaps now, more than at any other time in recent memory, with the many threats to robust, nuanced debates that have coarsened our public communications, scholars in the humanities need to reach out, listen, understand, and make their skills available to their fellow citizens just as they have done in the classroom.