Patty and I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust for lunch today at a Harvard alum gathering in Palo Alto. Drew is the first female president of Harvard. As one would expect from the top Havardian, she is incredibly articulate. But the thing that impressed me most was her groundedness. She is not an ivory tower academic.
In an earlier blog post I lamented the tendency for many to discount people who are well educated, particularly in politics. Well with more great role models like Drew Gilpin Faust and Brack Obama, I have hope that the class of well educated people will restore its good name. Well educated people are necessary for our country's future success.
Some highlights for Drew's speech [with a bit of commentary from me]:
Despite the economic downturn, Harvard will continue to provide generous financial aid to students. If you are qualified and admitted, you do not need to worry about affording a Harvard education. [I experienced this personally as it was less expensive for me to attend Harvard in the 1980's than it was to attend my state school.]
Harvard has some unique opportunities to foster cross disciplinary research between it's many schools. Rather than separate segments, Harvard is establishing networks connecting different disciplines. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Drew is coalescing "one" Harvard rather than letting the multiple "flat bottomed tubs" (schools) continue somewhat independently. [I believe we have reached some practical limits in what many separate disciplines can accomplish on their own. Cross-disciplinary teams are necessary to springboard to the next level.]
Further supporting cross-disciplinarian approaches, one of the challenges we face is figuring out how to better organize our knowledge -- keeping it in separate baskets does not work so well anymore. Harvard will play an important role in translating knowledge into the wider world.
Drew and others also commented on the greening of Harvard, the importance of Global Health, how we fund science appropriately in an era of decreased federal funding, the conundrum of mental health vs prisons, and studying abroad (becoming Global Citizens).
Drew is one impressive lady. I'm very glad she is the new president of Harvard. She is a breath of fresh air. [Speaking of which, you can hear her on her Jan 9th, 2008 "Fresh Air" interview.]