After 50 Years of Teaching, Anita Silvers Still Enjoys the Challenges

Friday, August 26, 2016
Photo of Anita Silvers seated near tribal masks

SF STATE NEWS -- Anita Silvers, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and a nationally recognized advocate for disability rights, begins her 50th year of teaching full time at San Francisco State University this year, a distinction no other current faculty member can claim. And it’s the first and only job she's ever had.

She was awarded the Quinn Prize from the American Philosophical Association in 2010. Silvers remains the only scholar from a non-doctoral-awarding university and only faculty member in the California State University system to receive the honor. In 2013, the Phi Beta Kappa Society awarded her their first-ever Lebowitz Prize for “Philosophical Achievement and Contribution.” In 2013, she received the CSU’s Excellence in Service Award as part of its recognition of outstanding faculty.

During the past decade, SF State’s Master’s degree program in Philosophy has consistently ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. “The thing I’m proudest of is being able to bring our department to national recognition because it’s made such a difference in our students’ ability to get into top-notch doctoral programs,” said Silvers. A 2015 external review report lauded the program’s “exceptional national impact” in launching students from underrepresented groups into careers in philosophy.

Last spring, Silvers was honored for her 49 years of service with a reception, lauded by faculty members, colleagues, as well as former students who have pursued their doctoral degrees in philosophy and are now teaching at universities throughout the country.

“It's really a thrill to start students on the route to successful careers. It's been this way almost from the time I started teaching,” said Silvers. “Watching students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, who initially did not know how much they were drawn to philosophy, turning on to its pleasures, going off to teach at every level of education or to doctoral programs.”

What’s kept her at SF State for so long?

“I feel privileged to contribute, and it’s an enormous pleasure when people tell me I’ve nourished their confidence in themselves, shown them how to enjoy opening their eyes and minds and inspired them to find innovative ways of dealing with the barriers they thought would always block them,” she said. “And, of course it’s a pleasure to devote my academic resources and connections to assisting philosophy students and to teach one of my specialties, medical ethics, to students from many disciplines.”