Wayne State University

A Short History of the Academy [1979-2000]

The Academy of Scholars was founded in 1979 with the enthusiastic approval of Wayne State's faculty, administration and Board of Governors. In the spring of that year, Professor Guy Stern, then vice-president for Academic Affairs and Provost of the university, approached President Thomas N. Bonner during the first year of his presidency with the idea for an Academy. Its main purpose was to raise the scholastic prestige of the university by bringing the most prominent academic experts to campus under its aegis and to create a community of scholars from among its most celebrated researchers. President Bonner's endorsement was immediate: it was predicated in part on the success of a similar organization at the University of Cincinnati, "The Graduate School Fellows," where President Bonner had been Provost and Stern an elected member of the Fellows. President Bonner, who after his retirement was to become one of the chief benefactors of the Wayne State Academy, charged Provost Stern with implementing his idea. The biennial Bonner Award established in 2000 is named in his honor.

The University Council helped structure an organizational procedure. Four recent recipients of Wayne State University's Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award, Professors Marion Barnhart (Physiology), Walter Chavin (Biology), Carl Johnson (Chemistry) and Ross Stagner (Psychology) formed one sub-group as charter members, with an additional number to be nominated by a committee comprised of themselves plus several professors emeriti. This important task, coupled with that of drafting a charter, fell to Professors Hermann Pinkus (Dermatology), Herben Schueller (English), Mildred Peters (Education), Jose Cirre (Romance and Germanic Languages) and Irene Beland {Nursing). The deliberations of this committee led to the nomination of Piero F. Foa (Physiology), Horst Daemmrich (Romance and Germanic), David Fand (Economics), C.P. Lee (Biochemistry) and Morris Goodman(Anatomy). The Policy Committee of the University Council quickly approved this slate.

In April 1979 the Board of Governors adopted the Charter of the Academy. Throughout the twenty-year history of the Academy it has been amended only once.

The drafters of the charter accorded equal to distinguished scholarship and creative achievement. As the highest recognition the university can bestow, the Academy was instructed to choose for membership "the most productive and widely recognized" members of Wayne State University. It defined the functions of the Academy as promoting creative achievement in scholarship by recognition and by provision of incentives. The Academy would also serve to attract young scholars of outstanding promise by bringing to the university distinguished scholars from other institutions, sponsoring meetings, stimulating intellectual activity, and by promoting intellectual interchange at all levels.

It also envisioned that the Academy, as a whole or through a committee, would advise the university in intellectual and artistic concerns, act as a scholarly resource, sponsor lectures by distinguished speakers from the WSU campus and beyond, and, by a variety of means, stimulate interdisciplinary exchanges between departments. The charter also stipulated that election was for life; it outlined the internal method of nominating, electing and inducting new members and the procedure for electing its president. The Academy elected Walter Chavin (Biology) as its first president.

Each president (Appendix II) added his or her distinguished mark to the evolution of the Academy. For example, Walter Chavin advocated and implemented the bestowal of a framed certificate for: initiates. Carl Johnson (Chemistry) regularized meetings, introduced agendas and kept records of proceedings. Karl Roskamp (Economics), with the support of Provost Sanford Cohen, regularized its budget. Jacob Lassner (Classics) and C.P. Lee (Biochemistry) opened the meetings to presentations of scholarly or creative achievements of its members. Paul Schaap (Chemistry) sought and obtained the participation of the university presidents at the annual banquet. 0.J. Miller (Molecular Genetics) sharpened the nominating process. Thomas N. Bonner (History) issued invitations to university officials (the Head Librarian. the Director of the WSU Press, the Dean of the Graduate School) to share and to resolve mutual concerns. Bonner also entertained the Academy at his home together with promising scholars who epitomized in their work the successful blending of liberal arts and sciences. James J. Hartway (Music), and his committees, fully implemented the "advisory function" of the Academy by their helpful and constructive statement on the state and future of the university, submitted to and welcomed by President Irvin Reid. Ananda Prasad (Internal Medicine) became the first to represent the Academy sui generis at an academic procession.

Beyond providing a strictly historical account, a post-modern chronicle ought also to include less official actions, events, anecdotes, and episodes of sad and lighter mien. Shortly after her sure-handed presidency (1980), Marion Barhart, an internationally acclaimed physiologist, sadly lost her life in a car accident. Fortunately, other events were less shattering and more routine. C.P. Lee, from her early induction to the present day, became the group's unofficial parliamentarian, invoking its charter and preceding actions. Carl Johnson earned gratitude by providing meeting rooms -- and free lunches. Guy Stem (German and Slavic Studies) resolved an "election crisis," when he found justification in an obscure "Rule of Order," allowing a candidate's initiation despite a shortfall by an infinitesimal fractional vote.

In trying to fulfill one of its missions, the enhancement of the intellectual climate on the campus and in the community, the Academy has through the years attracted scholars from the most varied fields to Wayne State. Illustrative examples will reveal the variety of approximately thirty-five guest speakers. In the arts and humanities the Pulitzer Prize-winner Joyce Carol Oates, by reading from her poetry, presented a less-known aspect of her creative writing. C. Walter Hodges, a world-renowned scholar of the Elizabethan Age, presented his latest findings on stage and stagecraft during the time of Shakespeare. In the social sciences, Prof. Bernard Lewis, award-winning historian of the Middle East, provided a closely-reasoned analysis of the fluctuating power struggle in this volatile region. Nobel Laureate Robert Solow predicted a sharpening economic rivalry between the United States and the European Union, and a slower-than expected economic equalization between the formerly divided parts of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Numerous scholars from various fields within the natural sciences equally enriched the campus community. Emblematic of the spirit of the Academy, two of its members from different departments joined efforts to bring Francisco Ayala, a world leader in genetics and evolutionary history, to campus. Herbert C. Brown, a pioneer in biochemistry, and also a Nobel Laureate, gave a remarkable account of how basic research can lead to unforeseen practical applications.

Concurrently with the Senior Lecture Program the Academy developed its Junior Lecture Program. Its purpose was to "foster research and enhance the intellectual climate on campus...by awarding the achievements of younger faculty." Each year one or more members of the Academy nominate two outstanding younger scholars, one representing the natural sciences and the other the social sciences, arts and humanities, to present their latest research or creative achievements before the general public and to receive certificates from the Academy. All of the earlier recipients have since received tenured positions at this or at other universities.

A sampling will illustrate the Academy's broad outreach into all areas of intellectual and creative life of campus. In the natural sciences Edward Golenberg (Biology), a gifted biological scientist and two equally meritorious chemists, Gang- Yu-Liu and Joseph P. Francisco presented talks at the cutting edge of research. Professor Francisco's talk, for example, focusing on the topical issue of the depletion of the ozone layer, commanded the attention of a large town-and-gown audience.

In the arts and humanities Von Washington, a stage director and theater historian and Nancy Hale, an art historian may serve as paradigms of the gifted young faculty within their disciplines. The same can be said of the presentations by junior faculty from the social sciences exemplified by Susan Fino of the Department of Political Sciences and John J. Bukowczyk of the Department of History.

Other results of this aspect of the Academy's work, less tangible but no less real, surfaced in an anecdotal report by one of its past presidents. The report lauded the interdisciplinary discussions following the reading of the papers both in the lecture hails and, more informally, at the round-tables at various restaurants. He concluded: "The Junior Lecture Series, including such topics as art history, mass spectrometry, computer-assisted musical composing and nursing sociology, have provided an insight into the intellectual riches of the university."

Throughout the years, at random intervals, the Academy's monthly meetings benefited from the reports by members about their ongoing research or creative efforts. For example, Robert Thomas (Physics) explained "Thermal Wave Imagining for Non-destructive Purposes." Robert Wilbert (Art), via a slide lecture, led us into an artist's workshop -- his own. Leonard Leone (Theatre) reported in 1998 on his initiative in the construction of a Globe Playhouse in North Carolina. Ronald Aronson (ISP) shared his discoveries during his research on Jean Paul Sartre.

Towards the end of its second decade of existence several new perspectives and goals opened up for the Academy. Thomas N. Bonner, past president of the University and subsequently of the Academy, and locally and nationally a leading proponent of the maintenance and strengthening of liberal arts and sciences programs, made a most generous donation of $50,000 to an endowment fund. Recognizing that the availability of an annual income opened new avenues, President Prasad charged a sub-committee (Carl Johnson and Guy Stern) with drafting guidelines for the appropriation of accruing funds from the Bonner donation. They were adopted during the spring of 1999. Essentially they fixed the name of the fund to "The Thomas N. Bonner Fund of the Academy of Scholars; but also fixed its principal purpose, consistent with the stipulations of its donor. "The sole aim of the fund is the ongoing examination of the place of the liberal arts and sciences in a modern university, including Wayne State University. Various activities designed to identify the place of the liberal arts and sciences and the means for their promulgation can qualify for funding. They include support for forums, conferences, prominent speakers, scholarly projects by full-time members of the campus community, and the partial underwriting of relevant publications, preferably by Wayne State University Press." The efficacy of the guidelines was first tried out, successfully, by a grant to Professors John Bukowczyk (History) and Alfred L. Cobbs (Germanic and Slavic Studies) for a conference on "The University and the City," held in spring of 1999, with scholars from around the nation, including WSU, participating.

In 1998, a long-planned project of the Academy came to fruition. Amidst a large-scale ceremony, a plaque to commemorate all past, present and future members of the Academy was installed in the David S. Adamany Library. The plaque, presented by the university, will bestow permanent recognition to those elected to the Academy.

As early as 1982 the Academy was asked occasionally to offer advice and guidance to the university administration on research. In that year, the Academy investigated ways in which other institutions MM notably the University of Minnesota with its Regents policy --honored and supported excellence in research. Some of the details that a committee of the Academy uncovered there, such as annual stipends, were never applied to the Academy, but did become a part of President David Adamany's institution of a Distinguished Professors program. In addition that same year, at President Adamany's request, the Academy, seeking advice from the College of Liberal Arts, the College of Law, the College of Education, the School of Medicine, and the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health, formulated a statement about the nature of research.

With the accession to the university presidency of Dr. Irvin Reid -- and with his active encouragement -- the Academy's mission to offer "its judgment and advice on questions of intellectual concern … to the University community and others" was soon pursued more fully. As a concrete indication of his encouragement, President Reid invited the Academy to assume a prominent role during his inaugural celebration by sponsoring a colloquium, similar to those held by other units. Before a large audience, including President Reid, Melvin Small, John Reed, Mark Evans, and James Hartway presented discussions of the future of disciplines as disparate as music and obstetrics.

President Reid also honored the Academy's invitation to attend one of its meetings in order to hear its assessment of university affairs and its suggestions for the future.

In April 1998 the Academy presented him with a statement developed under the leadership of its outgoing president, James Hartway. The Academy, by way of preface, pledged its full support to Reid's vision statement and concluded by stressing its advisory role through a "continuing, positive and productive dialogue with the President and the administration." Central to its declaration was a shared commitment to Wayne State as a center of research, teaching and learning "to promote development of its scholarly programs and encourage and develop the creative activities of the faculty." The declaration urged greater visibility for Wayne State both intellectually and physically, enhancement of its attractiveness to the community and beyond by highlighting the faculty's achievements and campus activities, and the streamlining of administrative procedures for students and faculty. It also stressed the modernization of its facilities, and a greater reliance on full-time rather than part-time faculty. In yet another statement, primarily concerned with its own budget, the Academy apprised the President of an envisioned new activity: "Based on the success of the Presidential Symposium, the Academy is considering presenting an annual forum for the community-at-large. This symposium will be a well-publicized event featuring Academy members discussing current topical events."

The report also alluded to further involvement of graduate students, a concept long championed by Piero Foa. The aim is to stimulate thinking about issues, at a time when knowledge is required, that demands multiple talents, skills, and backgrounds. In the spring of 2000, the Academy launched its series of University Forums where young faculty and graduate students presented their research to colleagues in other disciplines. This new and exciting program demonstrates that even after twenty years of existence it is still an evolving, dynamic body. Since the founding of the Academy, as with every viable organization, it has taken on a life of its own. As of the writing of this history [2000] it is safe to predict that in years ahead it will chart a course that will almost certainly break new ground time and again.

In its twentieth year in 1999, the Academy's activities provide proof once again of its vibrancy. Its Senior Lecture Program began with successive lectures by two Nobel Prize winners on September 21 and 22. As a headline in the WSU Campus News put it, "Two Nobel Winners get Academy Year off to Smart Start." Wole Soyinka, Nigerian author, playwright, and poet, who received the prize for literature in 1986 and is now Roben W. Woodruff Professor at Emory University, spoke of the effect of exile on his writing and that of other African writers. Less affected by his need to flee his homeland because of a tyrannical government, than by the circumstances of exile itself, he found that it changes a writer's identity: "I was no longer African, Nigerian, Yoruban; I was
Exilant."

The following day, Ferid Murad, director of the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas-Houston and the winner for chemistry in 1998, presented two campus addresses. Speaking before a large group at Scott Hall in the afternoon, he provided a detailed account of the work that led to the discovery of the basic mechanisms by which nitric oxide affects dilation of arterioles and endothelium functions. In the evening he spoke at the Academy's annual dinner at the Renaissance Club, recalling the expectant exuberance when one is a candidate for the Nobel Prize.

The wealth of past activities highlights the fact that the Academy has proven its ability to march with the times and their changing challenges. The Academy stands ready to meet these challenges and to respond to them in conformity with its intellectual mission.