Radcliffe Day: A Celebration of Ideas

@ The Radcliffe Institute
May 29, 2014

This Friday, on Radcliffe Day 2014, more than 900 alumnae/i, fellows, faculty, students, University leaders, and friends will celebrate a milestone anniversary: 15 years of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, founded in 1999, and 135 years of Radcliffe, founded as the Harvard Annex in 1879.

“On Radcliffe Day, we reflect on the past, savor the present, and imagine the future. We celebrate what connects them all: the pursuit of knowledge, a dedication to excellence, and a spirit of inquiry,” said Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen RI ’02. A highlight of the day will be when Dean Cohen awards the Radcliffe Medal to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, whose combination of scholarship of 19th century America and leadership of Radcliffe and Harvard establish her as “a historian who is making history.”

President Faust, the first woman president of Harvard University and the Lincoln Professor of History, was the founding dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her formative leadership built on the rich traditions and important legacies of Radcliffe College and the Bunting Institute to establish a vibrant scholarly, scientific, and artistic community that inspires great aspirations and enables great achievements. 

Today Radcliffe is a leading institute for advanced study where original thinkers engage in work across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences through three programs: a highly regarded and highly competitive Fellowship Program, the world-class Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America with its research collections that are used by students and scholars around the world, and an Academic Ventures program that creates unique opportunities for Harvard faculty members to develop new areas of inquiry and collaboration. All three programs offer dynamic events—including conferences, symposia, lectures, exhibitions, and concerts—that are free, open to the public, and shared online. 

It’s not only that the Institute was shaped by Faust, but also that she was shaped by her tenure leading Radcliffe before she became president of Harvard in 2007. Speaking at the launch of The Radcliffe Campaign, Invest in Ideas, she said, “Many of the fundamental commitments I’ve made as president are lessons that I learned here at the Radcliffe Institute. Even though I didn’t graduate from Radcliffe, I got an education at Radcliffe.” 

The lunch in Radcliffe Yard will include remarks by Dean Cohen; former Harvard President Neil Rudenstine, who recruited Drew Faust to Harvard; President Faust; and time for friends to connect and reconnect. Radcliffe Day also features panel discussions that draw on the Institute’s broad range of intellectual commitments and its diverse community, with participants coming from College graduates, Institute fellows, and the Harvard faculty.

The morning panel, a tribute to President Faust’s scholarly accomplishments and personal values, is “From Civil War to Civil Rights: The Unending Battle to Vote,” which will explore why and how the world’s greatest democracy has long struggled over which of its citizens can vote.

The second panel, “Gender and the Business of Fiction,” will engage writers, publishers, and critics in a discussion about who reads, who writes, who reviews, and what counts as literature.

In the third panel, “What is Life? The Science and Ethics of Making New Life in the Laboratory,” scientists and ethicists will explore how recent discoveries in the biological sciences raise new ethical questions.

Consistent with many of Radcliffe’s programs, these panels are being webcast live and will be available online in June: www.radcliffe.harvard.edu.

This celebration on Radcliffe Day 2014 is a fitting way to mark the Institute’s unique past, its vibrant present, and its commitment to the future of ideas and the ideas of the future. 

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