On October 7, 2020, over two hundred members of the class of 2020 gathered on Zoom to celebrate their recent election to the Academy. This virtual convening was not designed to replace Induction, but rather to capture some of the camaraderie, joy, and ceremony of the traditional weekend in Cambridge.
In a nod to what the new members may expect when it is safe to gather in person for Induction, the online program began with a celebration of the arts. Following a welcome and introduction from John Lithgow (Author, Actor), Natasha Trethewey (Northwestern University) recited “Illumination,” her poem about the scholar’s duty to pursue knowledge in service to the common good. The program included an overview of some history and traditions of the Academy from Board Chair Nancy Andrews (Duke University School of Medicine) as well as testimonials from current members reflecting on their own experiences with the work of the Academy and encouraging their newest colleagues to jump in with both feet. Excerpts from these testimonials are below.
Members moved into smaller breakout rooms that were, in the great tradition of the Academy, intentionally cross-disciplinary. In each room, a representative from the Academy’s governing bodies facilitated the conversations. These rooms had elements of spontaneity and even serendipity, with former colleagues reconnecting by chance and new acquaintances bonding over mutually shared interests.
President David Oxtoby provided an overview of the current priorities and led a town hall discussion about the Academy’s work. In the very final moments of the program, members watched Paul Simon’s performance of “American Tune” at his Induction ceremony in 2011 – an opportunity to reflect on the honor of election and consider the ways in which Academy members are connected through history.