Summer 2023 Bulletin

From the President

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.
Photo by Martha Stewart Photography.

When I took office as President in 2019, I quickly realized that one of the great joys of this role is the opportunity to travel to meet with members of our remarkable community. During 2019–2020, I visited some of our largest member communities in New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay area; smaller member groups in locations such as Dallas, St. Louis, and Nashville; and many international members in places such as Colombia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Shortly after completing my first year in office the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the Academy changed to a largely online community. I was inspired by the dedication and resilience of our members, governance leaders, and staff. The Academy did not just survive; it thrived, electing outstanding and diverse classes of new members, hosting virtual events that engaged more members in more places than ever before, and achieving record-breaking fundraising results. While the response of our members to the pandemic was remarkable, I know we all dearly missed the opportunity to gather in person to connect, exchange ideas, and collaborate to advance the public good.

This is why it has been so heartening to see the in-person life of the Academy return with vigor during the past year. From July 2022 through June 2023, the Academy hosted 54 events for members, Affiliates, and broader audiences—31 were in person across 12 cities (Cambridge, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Palo Alto, Phoenix, Madison, Berkeley, Seattle, and Aspen), and 23 were virtual. This diverse year-long program included stated meetings, roundtable discussions, conversation dinners, receptions, local member lunches, meetings, workshops, and webinars. A total of 1,077 members attended at least one event throughout the year, our highest total ever.

In the pages that follow, you will find reports on some of the most recent of these events. In April, the Chicago Program Committee convened local members for a discussion with Paul Alivisatos (University of Chicago), Michael Schill (Northwestern University), and Andrea Sáenz (The Chicago Community Trust) on “Chicago and Its Institutions: What is Our Responsibility to the City?” In May, the Academy’s Berkeley Program Committee hosted an event honoring Maxine Hong Kingston and presenting her with the Academy’s Emerson-Thoreau Medal for distinguished achievement in the field of literature. And in June, members, Affiliate leaders, and other experts gathered in Aspen, Colorado, for the Academy’s second annual Higher Education Forum, discussing such topics as political challenges for higher education both at home and abroad; the changing nature of work; and the future of artificial intelligence and advanced technologies.

In my first Annual Report in 2019, I reflected on my early travels and concluded that “the true essence of the American Academy lies in building connections: between research and policy, among fields and disciplines, and, most important, across diverse groups of people and perspectives.” Having witnessed the Academy’s response and recovery from the pandemic, I believe this even more strongly today. Thank you for your membership in the Academy, and I hope you will be able to join us in person for an event in the coming year.

David W. Oxtoby