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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

January-February 2017

<p class="credit">Photograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications</p>


Photograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

Nobel Honorands

Furer professor of economics Oliver Hart shared the prize in economic sciences with MIT’s Bengt Holmström for their work on contract theory. Hart’s insight was on incomplete contracts: a contract cannot possibly predict every scenario that might arise between an employer and an employee, or a patient and an insurance company. Hart has developed models for understanding what happens in such scenarios and how contracts can be designed to improve them. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, M.P.A. ’81, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating a peace treaty with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist guerrilla group, after five decades of conflict—even though the treaty had been rejected by Colombians by a narrow majority a few days earlier. (It has since been revised and approved.)

Other Honorands

Xander University Professor Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, has been awared the Ogawa-Yamanaka Stem Cell Prize for his work on cellular reprogramming as part of his research on diabetes; it comes with a $150,000 honorarium.…Higgins professor of chemistry emeritus Richard H. Holm is a 2016 recipient of the Welch Award in Chemistry, which is accompanied by a $500,000 honorarium; he was cited for broad contributions to inorganic chemistry. (Previous winners have included several other Harvard scientists, among them Flowers University Professor George M. Whitesides andthe late Jeremy R. Knowles, former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.)…Reischauer professor of Japanese politics Susan J. Pharr has been awarded the Japan Foundation Award for her “richly balanced and fair stance of understanding for Japan and for her humble and sincere character.”

Research Roster

Ten Harvard scientists were among 84 recipients of the initial round of HHMI Medical Scholars awards from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and two supporting foundations. The awards, supporting early-career scientists of exceptional promise, come with five-year research grants of $600,000 to $1.8 million. Harvard’s heroes are Emily Balskus, Kahn associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Thomas Bernhardt, professor of microbiology and immunobiology; Fernando Camargo, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology; Flaminia Catteruccia, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases; Victoria D’Souza, professor of molecular and cellular biology; Benjamin Ebert, associate professor of medicine; Chenghua Gu, associate professor of neurobiology; Stephen Liberies, associate professor of cell biology; Jayaraj Rajagopal, associate professor of medicine; and John Rinn, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology.

Honor Code, Year One

The Harvard College Honor Council, which reviews possible violations of academic integrity under the new Honor Code, has detailed in its first annual report the 115 cases brought before it in the 2015-2016 school year. One-quarter (29 cases) resulted in determinations that there was no cause for action or no substantiation of an accusation. Twenty cases were “referred for local sanctions” (from mandatory tutoring to failure for an assignment). Of the remaining cases, 66 (57 percent of the total) resulted in the increasingly serious sanctions of admonishment (warning of a violation, and imposition of a state of jeopardy; 15); probation (37); or the requirement to withdraw, typically for two to four terms (14). No students were recommended for dismissal or expulsion. Sophomores were involved in more cases than other classes (followed by seniors), and there were far more cases from the sciences and engineering and applied sciences than from humanities and social sciences. The matters brought before the council most often involved allegations of plagiarism (46 cases) or inappropriate collaboration on assignments (28), with problem sets, a common assignment, a special concern. The report may be read at http://honorcouncil.fas.harvard.edu/statistics.

Scientists-in-Chief

Computer scientist Martha E. Pollack, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, has been elected president of Cornell, which is building a technology campus in Manhattan. She did her graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a doctoral student of Barbara Grosz, now Harvard’s Higgins professor of natural sciences. Pollack’s appointment follows Stanford’s selection of a life scientist as its new president, suggesting the importance of those disciplines to research universities today.


Photograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

New University Professor

Professor of government and of education Danielle Allen, who also directs the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, has added another title: she has been appointed a Conant University Professor. University Professors hold the highest faculty rank at Harvard, reflecting the eminence of their scholarship; they are free to teach and conduct research in any school. Allen is a political theorist and philosopher who joined the faculty in 2015; her scholarship was profiled in depth in “The Egalitarian” (May-June 2016, page 40).

On Other Campuses

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (co-led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates ’77, LL.D. ’07), has given $210 million to the University of Washington to support its population health initiative.…Penny and Phil Knight—a University of Oregon business alumnus and co-founder of Nike—have given that institution $500 million, their latest in a series of enormous higher-education gifts, to underpin a new campus for accelerating scientific impact, a three-building laboratory and research complex.…Professor of medicine Charles S. Fuchs, chair of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s pancreatic cancer program, has been appointed director and physician-in-chief at Yale Cancer Center and its Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Nota Bene

The Uk calling. This year’s Rhodes Scholars include Spencer D. Dunleavy, Nancy Ko, and Maia Silber—all seniors—and Anthony Wilder Wohns ’16. Seniors Maille Radford and Reylon Yount were awarded Marshall Scholarships.

London calling. The Graduate School of Design has inaugurated its Richard Rogers Fellowship, a program of research residencies on the built environment, based at Wimbledon House, designed by the eponymous British architect. The house, designed by Rogers for his parents in the 1960s, was donated to the school in 2015 by Lord Richard and Lady Ruth Rogers to ensure its continued residential use. Six fellows per year will be awarded three-month residencies, travel expenses to London, and $10,000 stipends.

Medals of freedom. In a White House ceremony on November 22, President Barack Obama conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 21 recipients, including Harvard affiliates: Bill ’77, LL.D. ’07, and Melinda Gates, founders of the eponymous foundation; architecture honorary-degree recipients Frank Gehry (’00) and Maya Lin (’96); and the late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who as a member of Howard A. Aiken’s Harvard Computation Laboratory was among the first programmers of the Mark I computer.

Acclaimed authors. Colson Whitehead ’91 was awarded the National Book Award for fiction for The Underground Railroad; he was profiled in these pages in “A Literary Chameleon” (September-October 2016, page 32). Congressman John L. Lewis, LL.D. ’12, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell were awarded the prize for young-people’s literature for March: Book Three, a graphic memoir of the civil-rights movement, in which Lewis was a pioneer. And the Literarian Award was conferred on Cave Canem, a writer’s center that has supported the careers of several black poets; its role was reported in “Elbow Room,” the magazine’s March-April 2016 cover story.

Admissions litigation. The Project on Fair Representation/Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit alleging that Harvard College discriminates against Asian-American applicants has proceeded to discovery. Harvard has been ordered to provide data on applicants between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2015: many tens of thousands of people, few of whom were granted admission. If a trial is held, it is unlikely to begin this year. A report on the the ligitation appears at harvardmag.com/asianam-suit.

Addressing the white house. In the wake of reports that President-elect Donald Trump’s senior counselor, Stephen K. Bannon, M.B.A. ’85, had crudely disparaged the “Seven Sisters” colleges in a 2011 interview, Radcliffe Institute dean Lizabeth Cohen and the leaders of the other institutions sent him an open letter in which they expressed “deep exception to these comments and ask that you take a more expansive, informed, and tolerant world view in your leadership role.” Separately, President Drew Faust joined scores of other academic leaders in a statement supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which undocumented immigrant students who arrived in the country before their sixteenth birthday and before June 2007 have been able to pursue their studies at U.S. institutions of higher education.

Miscellany. David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a private-equity and investment firm, who joins the Harvard Corporation July 1, has been elected chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s board of regents.…James Voorhies, who in early 2014 was appointed the first Robinson Family director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (where Harvard’s art-making classes and studios are based), has decamped; he is now dean of fine arts at California College of the Arts.…Cornel West, who departed Harvard during the presidency of Lawrence H. Summers, subsequently teaching at Princeton and Union Theological Seminary, is apparently returning to the University, with appointments at Harvard Divinity School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; details were pending as this issue went to press.

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