Fall 2023 Bulletin: Annual Report

Report of the President

David W. Oxtoby
A headshot of David W. Oxtoby, a man with short gray hair. Oxtoby wears a white dress shirt with a navy blue tie and gray suit.
Photo by Martha Stewart Photography.

This Annual Report comes at an important moment in the life of the Academy. After years of primarily virtual engagement, our members are again gathering in person with a renewed sense of energy, vitality, and hope. During the last year, we held major Academy events in a dozen U.S. cities, and this fall we visited international members in Mexico City and London. In September, we hosted a historic Induction weekend for the classes of 2022 and 2023, welcoming 366 new members and more than one thousand total guests—the largest single in-person event the Academy has ever hosted. And in October and November, we released the final reports of two major Academy commissions: the Commission on Accelerating Climate Action and the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy.

This report also comes as we mark five years since the release of the Academy’s strategic plan. Approved by the Board in October 2018, the plan laid out five key strategic priorities, focusing on impact, member engagement, visibility, inclusivity, and financial sustainability. As you will see in the pages that follow, I am pleased to report that the Academy has made important progress in all of these areas during the past year.

The strategic plan’s focus on impact largely relates to the Academy’s projects and publications: how they are selected, conducted, and disseminated. In the American Institutions area, the Academy continued to follow up on the influential final report of the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, Our Common Purpose, with working groups on such issues as enlarging the U.S. House of Representatives, exploring the potential for Supreme Court term limits, examining the role of higher education in strengthening democracy, and defining civic culture. As these efforts continued, the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy reached the conclusion of its primary work with the release of its final report this fall and a corresponding photojournal, Faces of America. The Making Justice Accessible project also moved forward with several areas of focus over the course of the year, including developing better data on the civil justice system and planning for a future umbrella organization to lead and help coordinate state-by-state efforts across the country.

In the Education program area, the Academy hosted its second Higher Education Forum in Aspen, convening college and university leaders to address a wide range of issues affecting higher education and the world. In addition, the Academy held a series of meetings on the post-affirmative action future of diversity in higher education and is currently developing a new project looking at student pathways after high school.

In the Global Security area, our nuclear policy work continued with a series of briefings for members of Congress and an in-person meeting in Vienna, as well as several new publications. The project on Rethinking the Humanitarian Health Response to Violent Conflict concluded its work with a focused issue of Dædalus (published in Spring 2023) and launch events in New York City, Mexico City, and London. The Academy also held two exploratory meetings on global topics: one focused on the impact of the effects of prolonged war on democracy, and the other a follow-up meeting on measuring grand corruption and establishing an International Anti-Corruption Court.

In the Humanities, Arts, and Culture program area, we held a successful meeting marking the ten-year anniversary of The Heart of the Matter and began planning for a potential future project on culture, looking at the changing roles of museums, theaters, and libraries in connecting to diverse populations and multiple narratives. We also launched a project on the history of the Academy as we approach our 250th anniversary in 2030, to be written by acclaimed historian and Academy member Jacqueline Jones. Meanwhile, the Humanities Indicators project continues to serve as an indispensable source of data on the role of the humanities in American life.

In the Science, Engineering, and Technology area, the Commission on Accelerating Climate Action published its final report this fall and released its findings with a public event in Washington, D.C. The Challenges for International Scientific Partnerships project also completed its outreach phase, with several virtual events bringing participants together from around the world.

In the area of membership engagement, the Academy has managed to thrive despite the challenges of the pandemic, with virtual events including more members in more locations than ever before. As mentioned earlier, the return of in-person programming has been met with great enthusiasm, and we look forward to receiving the results of the recently released all-member survey, which will help us chart a course for Academy programming in the years ahead.

With regard to the strategic priority of visibility, the Academy has greatly enhanced its web presence and increased its use of social media and video content to share its work. Dædalus remains one of the most recognizable and influential areas of the Academy’s work, and we have made great progress in enhancing its visibility through video content, in-person and virtual events, and, perhaps most importantly, the decision to publish the journal as an open access publication.

Inclusivity has been a major focus of the Academy in the years since the strategic plan’s approval. Last year was the fourth year of the Academy’s five-year diversity initiative aimed at increasing the number of members who are women and people of color, as well as broadening the geographical locations and range of institutions of our members. Of the 227 Fellows elected in 2023, 109 (48 percent) are women and 96 (42 percent) are persons of color. This fall we announced the Academy’s new Legacy Recognition Program, an initiative designed to recognize the historical contributions of individuals from the past whose accomplishments have been overlooked or undervalued due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Finally, in the area of financial sustainability, the Academy successfully completed its $100 million fundraising campaign in June 2022, and continued to meet its annual fundraising goal in 2023. We remain immensely grateful to campaign cochairs Louise Bryson and David Rubenstein and to all of the donors who continue to support the Academy through their generosity.

This Annual Report also comes at an important time for me, personally. As you may know, in October I announced that I will be stepping down from the presidency at the end of June 2024. In the days following my announcement I had the pleasure of hearing from many of our fellow members and was reminded of how many remarkable people have played a role in the accomplishments detailed here. Thank you for all you have done for the Academy, and I look forward to continuing our work together in the remaining months ahead.

David W. Oxtoby