James Freedman, former president of Dartmouth, was inaugurated as the president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last week, two years after being elected to the Academy as a fellow.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, Freedman said that his presidency would bring many changes to the Academy, including having it focus more on issues relating to public policy and attracting more media attention to the usually attention-shy Academy.
"I think that his background as president of two different colleges and universities gives him an unusual national breadth," Leslie Berlowitz, executive officer of the Academy told The Dartmouth. "I think his agenda is very much in concert with that of the fellowship, and the fellowship's plans for the future."
Dean of the Faculty Ed Berger said that he was happy for Freedman and the effects that his Academy presidency would have on Dartmouth.
"I think that it is a great honor for him and a great distinction for the College," he said. "I think that [Freedman], in his position, will come to meet the full spectrum of artists and researchers, and it may facilitate in bringing distinguished speakers to campus."
College President James Wright said of the appointment, "I am very pleased with this appointment. Jim Freedman is the perfect individual to take on this critical responsibility. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has played an important role in American letters and I couldn't be happier with the decision."
Sheila Culbert, senior assistant to the president, echoed similar sentiments, saying "He will be a great president. I have read some of the things that he plans to do and they sound very exciting."
Freedman also plans to increase the number of women and minorities at the Academy, as well as the number of fellows from outside the Northeast, he told The Globe. As president, Freedman faces many challenges. Although one of the United States' premier honor societies, "it is probably the least well known," Berger said.
"There is a feeling that the Academy can do more--that it can have more projects," Michael Gazzaniga, professor of psychology at the College and a fellow of the Academy, said.
Gazzaniga added that the short presidential terms may not sufficient for many of the proposed changes to take place.
"It's a three-year term, so you have to be quick," he said. "What everyone will be looking for is where he takes the Academy."
The Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 by John Adams, the second president of the United States, John Bowdoin and John Hancock.
The Academy currently has 3,600 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members. It accepted 154 new Fellows this year, from a pool of about 1,000 nominations.
The members are divided into four classes, consisting of the mathematical and physical sciences, biological sciences, social sciences and the humanities.
Any fellow of the Academy can be nominated for the presidency by a special nominating committee, Berlowitz said. Those nominated are voted upon by all of the fellows.