DEAN LIZABETH COHEN - RADCLIFFE DAY REMARKS - MAY 30, 2014
Good afternoon, I’m Liz Cohen, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Welcome to a very special Radcliffe Day, as we celebrate 15 years of the Radcliffe Institute and 135 years of Radcliffe. It is thrilling to look out on a thousand members of the Radcliffe and Harvard community sharing this day under one big tent!
This afternoon we welcome our Radcliffe College and Bunting Institute alumnae, whose intellectual spirit we honor in today’s Radcliffe Institute. We welcome back stellar scholars, scientists, and artists who have been part of our recent past as an institute for advanced study. And we welcome Harvard alumni and students, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.
We welcome two of Radcliffe’s past leaders—Radcliffe College president Linda Wilson, and former Dean of the Institute Barbara Grosz—along with former Harvard president Neil Rudenstine. And we are delighted to have with us Margaret H. Marshall, former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and a former Radcliffe Medalist.
And of course, we warmly welcome the Institute’s founding dean, Harvard’s current president, and our 2014 Radcliffe Medalist, Drew Gilpin Faust.
I would like to recognize all the Radcliffe and Harvard alums who are marking milestones this afternoon, particularly our reunion classes: the class of 1989, celebrating its 25th reunion. The class of 1964, celebrating its 50th reunion. The class of 1954, celebrating its 60th reunion. The class of 1949, celebrating its 65th reunion. The class of 1944, celebrating its 70th reunion. Welcome also to the classes of 1999, 1994, 1979, and 1959—all celebrating reunions this weekend. We have alumni classes here spanning nine decades, beginning with the class of 1939 and extending all the way to 2014.
But we are also mindful of those who are no longer with us. Please join me in a moment of remembrance.
135 years ago, 27 women gathered in a clapboard house on the edge of Harvard Yard to study the same curriculum as Harvard men. Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, Radcliffe’s first president, called the idea that women could excel in higher education “an experiment.” But I think it’s safe to say, looking at all of you here today, that the gamble was a rousing success!
15 years ago, Neil Rudenstine and Linda Wilson envisioned a new Radcliffe experiment: the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. It too has been a great success and is now a thriving incubator of ideas for Harvard and the world.
The Radcliffe Institute of today continues Radcliffe’s longstanding commitment to meeting new challenges and breaking new ground.
The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library began 70 years ago with the audacious idea that women’s contributions to history were worth preserving. What started with alumna Maud Wood Parks’s collection of papers documenting her personal involvement in the women's suffrage movement is today the premier library on the history of women in America.
The Institute’s fellowship program originated with what was once a radical proposal. In 1960, Radcliffe President Polly Bunting insisted that women scholars and artists of that era deserved a place to pursue work apart from their domestic responsibilities. The result was the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study, later renamed the Bunting Institute. Today’s Fellowship Program, which hosts 50 fellows annually, continues to give women—and men—the time and space to pursue advanced research and groundbreaking projects.
Today’s Radcliffe Professorships honor the Radcliffe leaders and alumnae who worked tirelessly for gender equity at Harvard. Thanks to generous support from Radcliffe and Harvard alums, the Institute has established Radcliffe Professorships, which currently attract outstanding senior faculty to all of Harvard’s Schools and, hopefully in the near future, will expand to include tenure-track assistant professors, advancing the University’s vision of a distinguished faculty that reflects our richly diverse student body.
And on the subject of students, we take great pride in the Radcliffe Research Partnership program, which enables Harvard College students to work side-by-side with Radcliffe fellows. Today’s program, developed from President Linda Wilson’s efforts to expand intellectual opportunities for students, exemplifies our commitment to introducing students to new kinds of research, new ways of thinking, and, often, new aspirations for themselves. The Wallach Garden bordering Brattle Street features our latest effort to involve students in the Institute’s programs—through a student-designed public art installation.
Thanks to the vision of Radcliffe’s leaders, and the support of so many of you here today, we’ve become an intellectual hub at Harvard and a link between Harvard and the world beyond.
Last fall we launched the Radcliffe Institute’s $70 million capital campaign, Invest in Ideas. I am delighted to announce today that we have raised 54 percent of our goal.
By passing the halfway point, we’ve reached a milestone, but what’s equally important is how we’ve gotten there: to date, we have received 11,546 gifts from the Radcliffe and Harvard community, including from a large number of you here today. We hope that many of our friends will participate in the 15th Anniversary Challenge now underway. A generous group of alums (ranging from the classes of 1954 to 2011) will match gifts to the Institute through June 30th.
I am very proud of this broad-based, grassroots investment in Radcliffe’s future.
I am also very excited to announce a major leadership gift from Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson, class of 1957, and her husband Rupert, whose generous support will create a $12.5 million fund to advance the arts at Harvard. We are delighted that $7.5 million of that fund will support the Radcliffe Arts Program, including endowing a faculty director of the arts and establishing a new arts laboratory in a fully renovated gallery space in Byerly Hall. The gift from the Johnsons will support the gallery’s program and integrate the arts into wide-ranging scholarly inquiry across Radcliffe.
Thank you all! The Radcliffe Campaign is off to a terrific start. We have four more years and 46 percent more to go!
Radcliffe’s record of bold innovation came about because our leaders were willing to take risks to envision a different future.
When Neil Rudenstine set out to find the Institute’s first dean 15 years ago, he knew that the latest Radcliffe experiment required extraordinary leadership, so he wrote an open letter, asking everyone in the Radcliffe and Harvard community for help in the search (and I quote):
“We are looking for someone of very high academic distinction as well as exceptional intellectual breadth. Someone with demonstrated leadership . . . who can . . . shape a new enterprise committed to the highest standards of academic quality. And someone whose professional and personal qualities will be conducive to drawing together many different people and ideas, from both inside Harvard and beyond.”
The person Neil found for this important job was Drew Gilpin Faust. I’m very pleased that Neil is here today to share his memories of recruiting Drew to be the Institute’s founding dean.
Thank you, Neil.
The Radcliffe Medal is given annually to an individual whose life and work have positively influenced society. Today we honor Drew Gilpin Faust, for her visionary leadership as the founding Dean of the Radcliffe Institute and the President of Harvard, and as a champion for the transformative power of higher education.
In 1947 when Catherine Drew Gilpin was born in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the legacy of the Civil War still shaped the world around her. Even as a child, she was deeply aware of the centuries-old racial hierarchy of rural Virginia.
But the nation was changing. As witness to the dawn of a new era, Drew was captivated by the democratic promise of the Civil Rights Movement. At age nine, she voiced her support for desegregation in a letter to President Eisenhower after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. And in 1965, Drew’s first year at Bryn Mawr College, she skipped her spring midterms to march in Selma.
After college, Drew enlisted in President Johnson’s War on Poverty by working for the recently formed Department of Housing and Urban Development. But before long, she began graduate school in the American Civilization program at Penn. So began a commitment that would define Drew’s life—to see academic work in a university not as a refuge from the world but as a way to change it—through the power of ideas.
As a historian of the American South, Drew probed topics as wide-ranging as the dilemma of the Southern intellectual, the worldview of the slaveholder, the wartime challenges of Confederate women, and the unimaginable scale of death in the Civil War. For Drew, history became a stage on which to watch life’s great struggles play out. On the page and in the classroom, she probed the complex ways that ideology, race, class, and gender have defined societies of the past. She summoned empathy and critique, moral clarity, and political conviction.
When Drew arrived at Radcliffe, she brought along her scholar’s faith that universities have a special responsibility to interrogate the past, challenge the present, and inspire new ambitions for the future. And she soon recognized the crucial role that an institute for advanced study like Radcliffe could play in furthering those goals at Harvard. Taking the helm of an institution with an impressive and confident past, Drew made the Radcliffe Institute a place of creative encounter, where new ideas and new ways of thinking emerged from daily interactions between people of vastly different perspectives. In the years since Drew’s first days at the Institute, new ideas continue to be generously nurtured and enthusiastically shared.
After six years as Radcliffe Dean, Drew took her belief in the power of knowledge from Radcliffe Yard to Harvard Yard as Harvard’s 28th president. The commitment she made as the first Radcliffe Institute dean—to encourage the crossing of disciplinary and institutional boundaries in order to imagine anew—is now a hallmark of what she has called “One Harvard.”
Rather than simply a physical place, “One Harvard” is the embodiment of Drew’s conviction that bold ideas can make a difference. And her intellectual vision has taken many forms. It shapes her determination to foster new scientific research at the boundaries of old disciplines in Allston, just as it motivates her advocacy for the arts and humanities as a fundamental part of a college education in the 21st century. Likewise, her commitment to creating common spaces across the Harvard campus reflects her recognition that informal and serendipitous encounters will help Harvard produce a community of caring, engaged citizens of the university today—and of the world tomorrow.
Drew’s “One Harvard” has also transformed how we teach and how we learn. She has encouraged Harvard’s faculty and students to rethink the tired divide between learning and doing, between research and practice, and between scholarship and teaching, seeking new ways to engage students more centrally in creating knowledge, whether in the i-Lab, the metaLab, or the flipped classroom.
Drew’s “One Harvard” is a deeply egalitarian institution. Her strong belief that Harvard has an obligation to share knowledge widely has shaped her commitment both to financial aid and to a non-profit model for open on-line education. With generous financial aid, Harvard offers one of the finest educations in the world to the finest minds in the world, regardless of economic circumstances. And HarvardX makes the riches of Harvard’s faculty and classrooms available globally.
Drew’s unwavering trust in the power of knowledge has shaped her conviction that universities can and should be good neighbors, responsible citizens, and engines for change in an increasingly interdependent world. Drew has inspired people in Cambridge and around the world to see new possibilities for themselves and for others. When she testifies before Congress on behalf of federal support for research, or addresses audiences from Santiago to Shanghai, she carries forth a heart-felt and tough-minded message: that universities are uniquely positioned to generate knowledge, to deepen understanding, and to shape a better future.
Drew’s Harvard journey began at Radcliffe, where she launched an institute dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas. Today, she continues that mission as Harvard’s president. We are privileged to pay tribute to Drew Gilpin Faust this afternoon.
Citation for the Radcliffe Day 2014 Medalist:
An insightful scholar who illuminates the problems of the past
An extraordinary leader who helps us improve the present
A compelling thinker who inspires bold aspirations for the future
A historian who is making history
The recipient of the 2014 Radcliffe Medal,
Drew Gilpin Faust