In memoriam: Andreas Teuber

March 19, 2021

The Brandeis community, especially within the philosophy community, have recently mourned the loss of the late Professor Andreas Teuber (PHIL), who peacefully passed away at home on Feb. 15, 2021, at the age of 78. 

As a professor, he “tried to get each and every one of his students to do philosophy,” Provost Carol Finke wrote in an email to the Brandeis community informing them about Teuber’s passing. “To step up onto the stage for a moment and try to discover their philosophical voice; to join a millennium-old conversation about justice or beauty or truth.” 

And while Teuber’s classes were some of the highest-enrolled classes in the Division of Humanities, according to Finke’s email, students still felt a strong connection to him.  “Even in a massive lecture hall, I always felt that he was speaking directly to me,” Jake Mehl ’22 wrote to The Brandeis Hoot in an email.

“Teuber gave everything he had to others to make them feel like the most significant person in the room,” Thomas Pickering ’23 wrote in an opinions article in The Hoot. “He took every opportunity to show us something that made us feel small…these questions made us feel small, but no matter how we felt, Teuber always found a way of making every question show us how big we really were.” 

In this article, we hope to share some tributes by various faculty members about their relationships with Teuber and the memories that he leaves behind. 

Professor Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow (ANTH/CLAS/CH/FA/ITAL/WGS)

The Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Endowed Chair in the Humanities

Head of the Division of Humanities

Koloski-Ostrow worked alongside Teuber in a program she ran from 1999-2011 through Brandeis, “Ancient Greek Studies in the Schools,” which was a professional development program for K-12 teachers in the greater Boston area, she wrote to The Hoot in an email. The goal of the program was to demonstrate that all subjects could learn from the ancient Greeks. 

“Professor Teuber was absolutely committed to this professional development program for teachers, and he saw it as crucial for getting us faculty out of our ivory towers,” she wrote. While teaching an introductory course in philosophy during the tenure of the program, the local teachers “came to consider him our very own Socrates—he was somewhat unkempt; he wore rumbled clothing; he had long, matted hair; he was usually unshaven; and he was always questioning everything and everyone from the minute he started his seminars for the teachers,” she wrote. “Everyone was infected by his enthusiasm—especially for how philosophy developed and for Greek theater, as he had been quite an actor himself in his youth.”

Professor Daniel Breen (LGLS)

Senior Lecturer in Legal Studies

Teuber hired Breen as a grading teaching assistant for one of his courses while he was teaching history at Framingham State University in the early 2000s, Breen wrote in an email to The Hoot. He explained that even though Teuber had him grading 60 to 80 essays in a week, “those essay topics had a big influence on me, because they always demanded that students try to see and engage with arguments on the other side of whatever point they were trying to make.” 

“Andreas enjoyed the give and take of earnest discussion,” Breen added. “I treasure the time I got to spend with him trading ideas in a fun, easygoing way.  I’ll always be grateful to him for the opportunities he gave me very early on in my Brandeis career, and especially, for the example he set in terms of caring about his students.”

Professor Gordon Fellman (SOC)

Chair of Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies (PAX)

Fellman described Teuber as one-of-a-kind in an email to The Hoot. “The man was smart almost beyond belief,” Fellman wrote. “Conversations were stimulating and fun. A man of the theater as much as of the academy, Andreas delighted in the arts as much as in his academic field of philosophy.” 

Both worked together on the PAX steering committee and Fellman described how Teuber “championed PAX as the epitome of Brandeis’s emphasis on social justice and deeply appreciated its place in the Brandeis curriculum.” 

Hearing from students, Fellman got the impression that students loved Teuber as a professor not just because he was “unusually compelling in the classroom” but that he also “stimulated his students to think widely and deeply about issues crucial to all of our lives.” 

Professor Rajesh Sampath (HS)

Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights, and Social Change at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management

“I was immediately struck by the presence, demeanor, and if I may use some continental philosophical jargon, the ‘phenomenality’ of Andreas,” Sampath wrote in an email to The Hoot. Sampath first met Teuber a decade ago when he arrived at Brandeis. “Andreas embodied a living thought, whereby every gesture, glance and word seemed so saturated in meaning, an enviable plenitude given his immense intellectual and artistic gifts,” he wrote. “Andreas could take the ordinary and extract wonder from it.” 

Sampath described how Teuber challenged people when he spoke to them, not in a way to dominate, or humiliate them, but to bring out a more philosophical thinking, which allowed an individual to stand out in their own unique way. “Like an artist who seeks truth to occur as their art, Andreas wanted people to experience themselves as an occurrence of profound joy and meaning,” Sampath explained. “One must love what they do. One must not simply walk through life and let events happen; one must make life one, elongated, beautiful event.” 

According to Sampath, a common saying that Teuber said was that “philosophy is thought in slow motion.” 

“Andreas was the embodiment of compassion in relation to the contemplative life in slow motion,” he wrote to The Hoot. “This way every moment or instant contained the possibility of excess meaning, every encounter could become a memorable experience.”

Sampath will always carry a trace of Teuber’s presence, in the rest of his professional and personal life. “That is the incessant demand that we always pause, we question, we turn ourselves around in different directions but ultimately arrive at where we are supposed to be, namely our authentic self in a world of temporary fixations, busy schedules, and public appearances,” he explained.

Sharon Fray-Witzer (LGLS)

Lecturer in Philosophy

Fray-Witzer was initially connected with Teuber through Breen and has recently taken over teaching a few of his courses. “Professor Teuber worked hard to create delightful moments of discovery for students by focusing them on something very particular—something which might knock them off balance a bit,” she wrote in an email to The Hoot. “Then he would show genuine interest in knowing what they thought, neighboring them in wonder, and making it safe for them to take risks.” 

She added that Teuber celebrated the insights that his students had, so they could recognize the strength in their thoughts. “By doing that, he very deliberately created joy in looking and learning, recruiting students to become his allies in continuing a conversation which he never wanted to end.” 

Editor’s Note: The editorial board of The Hoot would like to extend its sincerest condolences to the family of Andrea Teuber for their recent loss. Members of the board have spoken fondly of him, both as a professor and mentor.

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