At the Annual Meeting on May 10, 2000, James O. Freedman, president emeritus of Dartmouth College and the University of Iowa, took office as the forty-second President of the Academy. He succeeds Daniel C. Tosteson, dean emeritus of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University. The President is elected to serve a three-year term.
An academic leader committed to the life of the mind and spirit, James O. Freedman has worked throughout his career to advance liberal learning. In his final commencement address at Dartmouth in 1998, he described liberal education as the "surest source of a satisfying life: a liberal education that lasts a lifetime will inspire you to strengthen the foundation of your moral identity and to explore the ordeal of being human—the drama of confronting the darker side of the self; the responsibility of imposing meaning on your life and society; the challenge of transcending the ambiguity-entangled counsel of arrogance and modesty, egotism and altruism, emotion and reason, opportunism and loyalty, individualism and conformity." A 1999 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, he has spoken to campus and community audiences on the meaning and value of a liberal education in a society with a growing number of college-bound students.
As a legal scholar and university president, Mr. Freedman has worked to advance diversity and social justice and to strengthen the role of intellectuals in society. After graduating from Harvard College and Yale Law School, he became a clerk for future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then a federal appeals court judge, and went on to the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. He began his academic career in 1964, joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he earned an international reputation as a scholar specializing in administrative law. In 1979 he was named dean of the law school, a position he held until 1982, when he became president of the University of Iowa. For the next five years, Mr. Freedman devoted his professional life to strengthening a writer's workshop, launching the Iowa Critical Languages program, promoting study-abroad programs, and leading one of Iowa's largest fundraising efforts.
As president of Dartmouth from 1987 to 1998, he moved to strengthen the college's academic reputation, as reflected in a New York Times profile titled "A Shy Scholar Transforms Dartmouth into a Haven for Intellectuals." Among his accomplishments: the first comprehensive change in Dartmouth's curriculum in more than seventy years, with more rigorous course requirements across eight major fields; new academic programs, ranging from the teaching of Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic to offerings in advanced foreign study; and a Presidential Scholars Program, providing juniors and seniors with the opportunity to work on individual research projects. Throughout his presidency, he regularly spoke out on the importance of equal opportunity and affirmative action, creating a series of programs to encourage women and minorities to major in the sciences, as well as fellowships to increase the number of minority Ph.D. recipients and, thus, the number of minority faculty members nationwide. To ensure that these efforts could be sustained and enhanced, he completed the most successful capital campaign in Dartmouth's history, with an endowment that rose from $537 million when he took office to nearly $1.3 billion.
He is the author of Crisis and Legitimacy: The Administrative Process and American Government and Idealism and Liberal Education. In addition to holding a number of honorary degrees, he has received the William O. Douglas First Amendment Freedom Award of B'nai B'rith and the Frederic W. Hess Book Award of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
James O. Freedman brings to the Academy not only his experience as a leader in American higher education but also his deep concern with the values of a liberal education-values that are embodied in the work of the Academy. In his remarks at the 220th Annual Meeting, Daniel Tosteson observed:
In his book Idealism and Liberal Education, Jim has written that "at the heart of liberal education lies a conception of intellectual wholeness, an ideal of coherence within that expanding array of specialties and subspecialties, disciplines and subdisciplines, that composes the universe of knowledge." Coupled with this idea of intellectual wholeness is his sense of intellectual responsibility, a dedication to service that is central to the work of the Academy. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated, in words and actions, his commitment to social justice based on tolerance and discourse, what he calls "an opening up of mind and spirit to a symphony of different persons, cultures, traditions, and languages." It is clear that the mission of this Academy and the mission of James Freedman are joined.