NEIL L. RUDENSTINE - RADCLIFFE DAY REMARKS - MAY 30, 2014
I feel more than privileged to be able to say a few words about this year’s recipient of the Radcliffe Medal, Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard and Founding Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Drew is also of course a very distinguished historian, and when she was at the University of Pennsylvania, she was for a long time on Harvard’s list of scholars to be captured at all costs and transported to Cambridge—but with no success. She remained stubbornly at Penn, and I can say that the process of finally persuading her to move north was by far the most difficult and complicated of any and all the recruitment efforts that I have ever had to make.
I can also say that, had it not been for Radcliffe, and the creation of the Radcliffe Institute—now just fifteen years old—Drew would not have come. The magnetism of this treasured place, and the idea of beginning a new initiative right here—made all the difference.
Why was my search for a Dean so difficult? Well, I knew that the person had to be a major scholar who was widely admired. I also knew that she had to be thoughtful and wise. Then, of course, there was a need for a compelling vision, and for some administrative experience, for a sense of humor, for fund-raising ability, and for the capacity to give leadership, not simply to an institution, but to the 30 or 40 or 50 wayfaring fellows—from an entire mélange of intellectual fields—who would very soon arrive.
Given all these modest qualifications for the Deanship, my cup of candidates did not precisely runneth over. But one person stood out above all others, and she is happily with us today.
Now that the Radcliffe Institute is so firmly established, we might be tempted to think that it was a venture inevitably bound to succeed. But we should remember that, when Drew arrived, there was no deep structure to this nascent institution. Fortunately, Mary Maples Dunn had led the way for a time as a superb acting Dean. Nevertheless, Drew had no ready-made blueprint describing how one should proceed, and no handbook indicating which subjects should be studied, and why, and how. All of this had to be created, and it was Drew that gave form and shape to something whose nature and processes were then obscure—but now—in the light of today—seem to have been completely predestined. More than anything, she made certain that Radcliffe’s commitment to the education of women was—in a number of significant ways—brilliantly sustained.
So one obvious reason for honoring Drew today, has to do with her role as founding Dean of the Institute. Another reason, of course concerns her extraordinary leadership of all of Harvard, as its 28th President. Here, let me say that Drew has very quickly established herself, not only as an intellectual leader but also someone who can superbly manage and give unity to a sprawling university whose splendid but multitudinous parts might otherwise burst forth in any number of random directions—simultaneously. Drew has the clarity of vision, and the capacity to achieve, that have already made her a pre-eminent leader in all of higher education. She knows instinctively—and can articulate eloquently—the values and purposes of the liberal arts and sciences. Universally respected and admired, she is leading Harvard into a new era that already promises to be as extraordinary as our distinguished institution deserves. For this and for her essential role at Radcliffe, I am honored to play a part in today’s memorable ceremony.