Actor and Arts Advocate Jane Alexander to Receive Radcliffe Medal

A Celebration of the Arts on May 31
Photo by Joan MarcusPhoto by Joan Marcus
February 27, 2013

Karla Strobel

Cambridge, Mass.—February 27, 2013—Today, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study announces that this year’s Radcliffe Medal will be awarded to actor and arts advocate Jane Alexander.

Radcliffe Day 2013 will celebrate the arts with a morning panel that unites leaders across the visual arts, writing, music, and theater. It will be immediately followed by the annual Radcliffe Day lunch, featuring an address by Alexander, who is being honored as an individual whose life and work have significantly and positively influenced society.

This year, Dean Lizabeth Cohen will present the Radcliffe Medal to Jane Alexander in honor of the courage she has shown as an actor and as a champion for the arts during her tenure as the head of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from 1993 to 1997. Alexander’s acting roles—including The Great White Hope, which confronted race and segregation in the Jim Crow era, and All the President’s Men and Kramer vs. Kramer—have earned four Oscar nominations, seven Tony nominations and one win, and nine Emmy nominations and two wins. As the first working artist to chair the NEA, Alexander fought to protect arts funding in the 1990s when it came under fire by Congress.

“For the arts to thrive and contribute to the quality of Americans’ private and public lives, we need bold and passionate leaders,” said Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen. “Jane Alexander’s work as an actor and as an advocate provides a model for how one individual can raise national consciousness about the critical role the arts play in shaping ideas and advancing creative thinking. We celebrate the power of the arts at Radcliffe throughout the year and especially on Radcliffe Day this year.”

Image left to right: moderator Diane Paulus; panelists Elizabeth Alexander, Beverly McIver, Mark Robbins, Augusta Read Thomas.

On May 31, Radcliffe Day will begin with a morning panel, titled “From Artist to Audience,” featuring five individuals who will discuss the challenges they face as artists—and the United States faces as a society—in garnering the support needed to bring art to audiences:

Moderator Diane Paulus ’88 is the artistic director at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) and a professor of the practice of theater in Harvard University’s English department. At the A.R.T., her groundbreaking work—including The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and Prometheus Bound—has transformed the audience experience.

The poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher Elizabeth Alexander RI ’08 composed the renowned poem “Praise Song for the Day” and delivered it at the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama. She is the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Yale University.

Painter Beverly McIver RI ’03, who produces art that consistently examines racial, gender, and social identity, is a professor of art at North Carolina Central University. She and her sister Renee were the focus of the powerful 2012 documentary Raising Renee, directed by Jeanne Jordan BI ’93, RI ’03. Jordan met McIver in 2003 at the Radcliffe Institute when they were both fellows. 

Mark Robbins RI ’03 is the executive director of the International Center of Photography, an institution dedicated to the practice and understanding of photography in all its forms. He is an artist who uses photography to examine people and their built environment. Previously, Robbins was the dean of Syracuse University’s School of Architecture and served as the director of design at the NEA.

Augusta Read Thomas BI ’91 is among the world’s most accomplished and original contemporary composers. The American Academy of Arts and Letters cited the “unbridled passion and fierce poetry” embodied in her works and recognized her as “one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American music.” 

On Radcliffe Day, hundreds of alumnae/i, fellows, and friends gather to build on the legacy of Radcliffe College and celebrate the Radcliffe Institute’s dedication to sharing transformative thinking, supporting innovative research, and advancing ideas that illuminate our world. All are welcome. Registration is required and online at

About the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University is dedicated to creating and sharing transformative ideas across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. The Fellowship Program annually supports the work of 50 leading artists and scholars. Academic Ventures fosters collaborative research projects and sponsors lectures and conferences that engage scholars with the public. The Schlesinger Library documents the lives of American women of the past and present for the future, furthering the Institute’s commitment to women, gender, and society. Learn more about the people and programs of the Radcliffe Institute at

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