SPEAKER 1: I want to welcome you to the next part of this morning's program, which is a special presentation on the humanities. This morning, we're going to have the treat to hear from someone whose long experience as a scholar, and musician, and university leader, and head of a major philanthropic foundation gives him a wonderful vantage point from which to view the future of the humanities and the arts. After our guest shares his thoughts, you'll have an opportunity to ask questions. And then I'm going to make a brief announcement that I believe you'll find interesting.
Many of you know Don Randel from his 32 years at Cornell. Although he had moved on before I arrived here, I too have had the privilege of getting to know him, and it's a pleasure to welcome him back today. Don is president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which is, as you know, a major supporter of the humanities and related social sciences at Cornell and across the country for decades. And Don personally has been, and is, a very influential advocate for the humanities at the national level.
Here at Cornell, our relationship with the Mellon Foundation is broad-based, focused mostly, though not exclusively, on the College of Arts and Sciences. The foundation support is also vital in the Society for the Humanities, the libraries, the graduate school. Mellon funds have created numerous graduate and post-doctoral and faculty fellowships. And a wonderful challenge grant from the foundation recently enabled us to endow three new senior interdisciplinary professorships in the humanities. Another large grant provides summer stipends for graduate work in the humanities.
And the foundation has also provided longstanding support of our well-known, very distinguished Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, an interdisciplinary effort based in ILR. Many other Mellon initiatives support programs, as well as the research efforts of individual faculty members. And we greatly appreciate the foundation's confidence in Cornell as demonstrated through these numerous grants.
No one-- no one could be better suited to lead the Mellon than Don Randel. Before assuming it's presidency in '06, he served for six years as president of the University of Chicago. There, he strengthened the physical and the biomedical sciences and undergraduate research, as well as the university's ties to the Chicago communities and to the Argonne National Laboratory. But he was also known as a champion of the arts and humanities, and it is especially important to continue such support in difficult economic times.
In 2005, he was one of three university presidents to receive a $500,000 Academic Leadership Award from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. And Don's understanding of the significance of the arts and the humanities goes far deeper than an administrative perspective. He began his career, as I'm sure you know, with a love of music, in which he earned a bachelors, masters, and doctorate at Princeton.
As a musicologist, he specialized in the music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Spain and France. Over the course of his career, he distinguished himself in the field, editing the Journal of the American Musicological Society, as well as three widely-used reference books-- The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music, and my second favorite book, after the book of Cornell songs, The Harvard Dictionary of Music.
Don came to Cornell as an assistant professor in 1968, and he rose through the ranks, eventually being named Given Foundation Professor of Musicology in 1990. And he was highly regarded, as you know, for his intelligence, energy, and powers of persuasion. He held a variety of administrative posts, including department chair, vice provost, associate dean, then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. And in 1995, he became provost, a position he held for five years until he assumed the presidency at the University of Chicago.
As provost, Don helped to develop the Cornell Research Scholars Program and to strengthen the biological sciences, but he also remained devoted to music and to the arts and humanities, equipping students for intelligent citizenship. And I will tell you from personal experience, he plays a mean flugelhorn--
--and is very creditable on the keyboard. Today, Don Randel is more effective than ever as a leader in philanthropy that advances the arts and humanities. Let's welcome our friend, colleague, and mentor, Don Randel.
DON RANDEL: Thank you very much. I hope I needn't say what a pleasure it is to be speaking to such a large group of Cornellians. I have stood on the stage and spoken to previous meetings of this organization, and it's always a great thrill. I can't tell you how many other institutions of higher education wish they had such a thing as the trustee counsel organization in general.
What you've just heard is that I spent 32 years of my life at Cornell, which is to say most of my adult life.
Why was that, despite various opportunities to go other places? Well, I've always said that it was because there was more intellectual fresh air blowing through Cornell than at the other places we played football against.
This was, and is, a function of its intellectual diversity. And this intellectual diversity is at the heart of what Mr. Cornell meant when he said he would found an institution where any person could find instruction in any study. He did not say every study, as the keeper of the university's budget certainly knows. He said any study.
And this was a ringing declaration of academic freedom and a rejection of any restraints that might be imposed on that freedom by religion, or ideology, or the history of modern universities dating back to 19th century Germany, or merely unexamined habit. What this has meant in daily life is that Cornell could bring together a collection of disciplines with their diverse intellectual perspectives, and at the highest levels of excellence, that certainly could not be matched by any of the places we still play football against or any other place either.
This morning, I'd like to say a bit about the humanities in Cornell's history and character, and further about the humanities in the life of the nation. Simply put, the humanities at Cornell not only represent one of its great traditional strengths, it is the presence of the humanities alongside its other great strengths that gives Cornell a unique position on the landscape of higher education, and that defines what is, or ought to be, its singular competitive edge in a very competitive environment.
Not too long ago, I spoke on the campus of the University of California at Davis. I remarked on what a great pleasure it was to be speaking on the campus of the university with the second best vet school and the second best ag school.
They knew exactly what I meant, even if they were not all equally amused-- including my uncle, who is a member of the veterinary school faculty there.
Simultaneously, Davis does have some very good people in the humanities that I'm pleased to say the Mellon Foundation supports. But if one were making a list of the universities with the greatest strength in the humanities, Davis might well not make that list. A similar kind of conclusion could be reached no matter which of Cornell's schools and colleges one chose to compare with its chief competitors. Engineering, for example, might be thought to compete directly with MIT or Caltech. But neither of these has Cornell's tradition in the humanities.
Conversely, it must be asked what about Cornell's competition in the humanities? Of course, there are some, though not all, of those places we play football against.
But none of them has a leading vet school or a leading ag school, and several do not have engineering at anything like the level that Cornell does.
I'm a relentless opponent of the familiar rankings of institutions, especially those of the US News & World Report. But even if one takes them the least bit seriously, there will always be arguments about the rankings within any given discipline-- whether Cornell's ag, or engineering, or humanities is a bit better, or not quite as good, as its leading competitors. But what is fact and not mere opinion is the uniqueness of the particular combination of strengths that defines Cornell. Cornell's challenge, then, is only how to capitalize on that combination, by ensuring that these strengths do not merely cohabit in the county of Tompkins, in the state of New York, but that they engage one another in what can, and should be, uniquely fruitful ways.
I do not wish for a moment to slight what the humanities at Cornell can and should derive from the presence of Cornell's other strengths. But for today, I want to stress the value of the humanities for the university as a whole, and for each of its separate parts. Part of that value is the value that the humanities have for the life of the nation and for every one of its citizens.
In speaking about the humanities and insisting on their importance, I'm reminded of a passage in Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. The novelist character named Pursewarden points out that when it comes to writing love letters, no matter how good you are, after about a dozen, you begin to be hard up for new material.
Both love and the humanities are their own reward. And they have been central to what makes life worth living for as long as human beings have left any record of what they cared about. The value of love and the humanities endures, and the nature of that value does not change much over time. To describe that value, it's necessarily to say things that in one way or another have been said many times before. That doesn't make very good newspaper copy in the modern age, and it isn't reducible to the 150 characters in a tweet.
But that shouldn't prevent us either from writing love letters or from advocating the importance of the humanity, and from repeating that advocacy insistently, declaring the value of the humanities with whatever words we can summon.
In addressing the place of the humanities, the utility of the humanities, the future of the humanities, what it is that we humanists are advocating? We advocate a set of activities that do not bring in big research grants, that cannot guarantee students their future employment or the respect of the general public. Activities whose contribution to the gross domestic product and to job creation in a period of economic decline, or indeed in any period at all, is not easily described.
Unfortunately, we live in a nation with a deep anti-intellectual streak, a steadily declining attention span, and little interest in learning the lessons of history and how they might help us think about the future. For the most part, we have invested in our intellectual life over most of our history only when it can be justified in terms of contributions to the gross domestic product, the national defense, or increased longevity. We do this without thinking too much about whether the resources produced by the GDP are appropriately distributed across the citizenry, what it is about our nation that we are actually trying to defend, and from whom or what, and who it is that ought to have access to increased well-being and longevity, or why one might want to live longer in the first place.
Not surprisingly then, advocating for the humanities has lately seemed to take an instrumental turn. To be sure, one still hears echoes of the traditional view that the humanities are ends in themselves. But an article in the New York Times not too long ago summed up some of this discussion with the headline-- In tough times, the humanities must justify their worth.
There are, of course, many such justifications. And the 12 or so love letters that one can write about the humanities before running out of new material have stated them very well. The danger here is that we may be tempted to oversell some of these justifications in the attempt to give them an instrumental turn, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. And more important, we may tend to overshadow what must still remain, the single most powerful and useful justification for the humanities, namely their contribution to leading a richer and more meaningful life. About this assertion, we must not apologize or even be hesitant.
The place of the humanities-- and I would add the arts-- is a subject of national debate, as well as of debate within colleges and universities. One could become discouraged about the quality of the debate, knowing that a significant number of our elected representatives favor eliminating altogether the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. Each of these has recently had a budget of about $150 million-- about the cost of one F-22 Raptor airplane. Careful students of military hardware will wonder why I've chosen that particular airplane as the point of comparison, since it's being discontinued.
Why not the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter? Well, that's because we do not yet know exactly what one of these airplanes is going to cost.
Meantime, of course, we must not reduce the budget of the Department of Defense in any significant way.
The argument summoned in behalf of the humanities and the arts in the national debate are most often the instrumental arguments. This is simply because these are the arguments that most often work in our society. Scientists know this very well. What matters is what contributes to the national defense and to the gross domestic product. The humanities and the arts have not been very good at the national defense argument, though one could well construct such an argument.
But the contribution to GDP has been taken up with relish by the arts community. The arts are good for business. The arts create jobs, even apart from the jobs of the artists themselves. The arts cause people to get on airplanes, ride the train, drive their cars, hire babysitters, eat in restaurants, drink in bars, give to their public radio station-- though this last may cease to be a problem if they get rid of all the public radio stations.
But all of this essentially places the arts in the domain of entertainment, rather like professional sports. This, too, is an interesting comparison, for the public has often been prepared to provide huge subsidies in the forms of stadia and other infrastructure to professional sports franchises-- that are, after all, big and sometimes very profitable businesses-- while being rather more reluctant to support nonprofit humanities and arts organizations in similar degree.
Ticket prices would be another interesting point of comparison between professional sports and the arts. There is, then, a national cultural debate of which the debate within higher education is only a part. How is it that we might make the humanities and the arts in a college or university-- if not in the national life-- more than mere entertainment or the idle pursuit of the well-to-do?
How do we make the humanities and the arts more than the veneer that we would like to apply to our students and ourselves-- perhaps so that our engineers would seem a little less geeky?
How do we ensure that the humanities and the arts are a crucial part of the intellectual fabric of the institution? This entails thinking about what the intellectual fabric of the institution ought properly to be, and indeed what we are attempting to bring about in the lives of our students and anyone else who forms a part of this community. This entails, in turn, thinking about what a college or university truly stands for and the means by which it demonstrates what it stands for.
This is not about the value proposition of the institution-- what kind of a job will you get if you study here, and how much more will you make over your lifetime in consequence of your degree? This is about the values proposition of the institution-- what truly matters in life and what makes it worth living. This is, of course, what the humanities and the arts are all about.
As an aid to thinking about such things, it's not wrong to start by reading some of the old books that are concerned with them. I like Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle leads us carefully from the view that most everyone regards happiness as the goal of life, through the ways in which people differ about what happiness might consist in, to the conclusion that happiness is not the same as mere pleasure or amusement, and that the contemplative life is the life with the greatest happiness.
He writes-- for man, therefore, the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason, more than anything else, is man. This life, therefore, is also the happiest. And happiness must be some form of contemplation, he says. He makes clear that the contemplation is not the passive thing that the word often suggests, as in contemplating one's navel.
He writes, the happy life is thought to be virtuous. Now, a virtuous life requires exertion and does not consist in amusement. Now, before we get too carried away with Aristotle, and before someone rises to point out that ancient philosophers were not wholly approving of the performing arts especially, let me disclose fully what Aristotle says about flute players and flute playing.
President Skorton will want to pay close attention here.
I quote Aristotle. People who are fond of playing the flute are incapable of attending to arguments.
If they overhear someone playing the flute, since they enjoy flute playing more than the activity in hand-- so the pleasure connected with flute playing destroys the activity concerned with argument.
Let this simply be evidence that among the things we should try to teach is that one should not believe everything one reads in books, not even in old books by famous people.
What we are talking about here might simply be called the life of the mind, which is an active and energetic life. What are the qualities of that life? Reflection, to be sure. But equally important are curiosity and imagination. In these terms, there are not two or n cultures in a college or university's affairs. There is only one.
The best humanists, artists, and scientists do what they do because they cannot help it. Of course, some of what they do has practical consequences that are valuable to society in practical and economic terms. But even those practical consequences are often born of the passionate exercise of curiosity, imagination, and reflection for their own sake.
This is why in the national debate, and in the debate within higher education, we must not take refuge solely in the instrumental arguments that seem to justify our existence, whether as humanists, artists, or scientists. We must vigorously assert that we are all one in our pursuit of the life of the mind-- first and foremost, for its own sake-- and then for the enormous benefits to society of that pursuit. The founding president of the University of Chicago famously remarked, we are one in spirit, if not necessarily in opinion.
To the presser for instrumental arguments, in terms of the national defense of the curing of disease or the pursuit of only what can be described in quantitative terms, I have some favorite responses by wise people-- Robert Wilson, the great Cornell physicist for whom Cornell's synchrotron is named, and the founding director of Fermilab, with the accelerator that we have just turned off somewhat prematurely for want of money to spend on basic research. He was asked in congressional testimony whether the accelerator at Fermilab would contribute to the national defense. He replied, no, it would not contribute to the national defense, except to make the nation worth defending.
William Carlos Williams-- a great poet, but also a physician who certainly knew something about disease and death-- wrote these lines about life and death more broadly conceived. It is difficult to get the news from poems. Yet men die miserably every day for the lack of what is found there.
John Maynard Keynes-- a great economist and student of probability, no matter what you think about current debates on fiscal and monetary policy-- wrote the following in his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. The statement that Queen Victoria was a better queen than Elizabeth, though not necessarily a happier woman, is a statement not without meaning and not without interest. But it is not suitable material for the differential calculus.
Not everything that matters is easily quantifiable. Indeed, what matters most is not easily quantifiable. What we really hope to cultivate, then, is a certain quality of mind-- not a body of knowledge, or a list of books read, or music listened to, or of skills developed in the process, but rather a way of life in which the mind never ceases to be filled with wonder at the world and all of its people, in which there is an unquenchable thirst to understand more, to be moved by more kinds of beauty, and to share that with one's fellow human beings. In the best of cases, this rises to the level of love.
Intellectuals who might be thought to instance some of what we are hoping for from the humanities cannot necessarily be counted on to do the right thing for other human beings or the planet that we share. Some of them have even been monstrous criminals. If we were really hoping for a certain quality of mind to inhabit the lives of more people, our frame of reference expands very considerably. It obliterates the boundaries between the humanities and the other subjects that the university pursues.
Of course, the humanities want for the national life underneath it all the same thing that the arts want. But in this sense, the humanities and the arts and the sciences are absolutely of a piece. Set aside for a moment the money that it takes to pursue these various activities and the ways in which each tries, at times, to justify itself by taking up the utility question.
The real complaint of the humanities is precisely the same as the real complaint of the sciences-- not enough American kids, and the grownups they become want to pursue these fields seriously because other things seem to matter to them more than living the life of the mind-- a life in which continuously opening and stretching the mind-- to ideas, to nature, to other people-- is felt clearly and passionately to be the only life worth living.
When it comes to the fundamentals of what we hope for in the national life, there are not two cultures. The humanities and sciences are, or ought to be, in precisely the same place. What to do about this? Colleges and universities are a good place to start. Too many things about college and university life often to be sure in response to serious pressures from beyond their walls act to reify the notion that in the life of the mind there are two cultures.
Let us stipulate that there are both know-nothing humanists and know-nothings scientists, each of whom acts as if there is nothing of consequence to learn from the other. Each group needs to be more modest about the power of its own modes of inquiry and what might be said in consequence to constitute knowledge worth having. The worthiest goal for us all would be to instill in every last student the profoundest sense of regret-- regret that one will never know as much as one would want to know about either people or nature and the interaction within and between the two.
How shall we go about demonstrating that we are, in fact, all one in spirit, that the humanities are not idle pursuits of the obscure, that the arts are not mere amusement, that the sciences and social sciences are not simply of practical utility? This will require an energetic and active collaboration among all of the university's disciplines. And there will need to be enough signs in the system to cause every one to believe that we actually believe this.
There are a few simple exercises that can aid in the discovery of just what the signs in the systems are. Walk around some campus and see what stands out. Read the university's own newspaper and other publications, as well as the student press to see what gets attention. Listen in on the conversations of others to learn what is most often talked about.
In the terms I'm advocating, this could be a discouraging set of activities on many university campuses. But here, Cornell has a unique opportunity because of its unique character. It has the possibility to demonstrate in its intellectual life the ways in which all of the intellectual pursuits at which it excels are born of the same spirit, and that each of these pursuits becomes stronger the more closely-bound it is to the others.
Many things about the management of modern universities tend to insulate these pursuits from one another, especially in the lives of students. At Cornell, the nature of the partnership with the state of New York-- which ought to be a shining example for the nation-- has sometimes exacerbated this tendency. All that is required to overcome it, however, is the will to overcome it.
Everything that Cornell says to students through its curriculum, and the many other signs in the system, should say that every part of the university is bound to every other part by the shared pursuit of a certain turn of mind. Not every student can take even one course in every discipline, but every student should come to regret that very fact and be guided ever more by the hunger to understand more.
A university without the range of Cornell's strength can never succeed to the same degree. At some universities with great strengths in science and technology, study of the humanities and the arts is bound to seem like tokenism. But at Cornell, the strengths of the humanities and the arts are real and present for all to experience.
Every Cornell student should leave the university knowing the names of Mike Abrams and A.R. Ammons just as surely as they should know the names of Liberty Hyde Bailey and Hans Bethe and what all of them represent in terms of the quality of their contribution to diverse ways of thinking and knowing. There is, in all of this, the matter of the ways in which it spends money, and the things for which it seeks money from generous people, and what this says about what it values.
We can all agree that it is possible to study and write poetry under a tree or in a small room with a single candle. And it is not really possible to advance our understanding of molecular biology in quite the same way. But students and we ourselves may get the wrong idea if those who study and write poetry are forever consigned to small rooms with a single candle, or to no room at all, while those who pursue molecular biology necessarily inhabit shining examples of modern architecture.
Studying poetry is, in fact, cheaper than studying molecular biology.
But the university must make clear in its physical environment, as well as in its intellectual claims, that certain things matter with respect to its values, whether or not those values appeared to be shared by the marketplace.
I've tried to make the argument for shared values across all of the university's undertakings. Let me not altogether omit the arguments in terms of practical consequences in the so-called real world. First of all, values guide what we do with the knowledge we create in universities.
We really do, as a society, and as individuals, have an obligation to think about how we distribute the wealth produced by the economy, about what makes us as a nation worth defending, and from whom, and by what methods, and about who deserves the best education, of which they are capable, and who will pay for it, and who deserves to benefit from the advances in the treatment of disease, and at whose expense.
These are matters that human beings have thought about for a long time, and every young person needs to be confronted with thinking about them for him or herself. All of this is to say that our values do have real, practical consequences. It is not to say that the university must try to inculcate some particular values as dogma. But it must steadily examine its values and ensure that they remain in tune changing realities.
And every student's experience must include a personal encounter with the most serious thinking about the values of individuals and society. That is at the heart of what the humanities and the arts do. To study great works of literature and philosophy and history is to explore how thoughtful people have tried to make sense of life and how to live it. This is very much more subtle and complicated than taking a course in, or reading on, how to behave in polite society of people like oneself.
There are still more practical arguments for the pursuit of the humanities and the arts in a young person's life. A great many young people seem to be guided, first and foremost, by a wish to accumulate substantial wealth, even beyond the quite understandable goal in these uncertain times of earning a decent living capable of adequately supporting a family. Many too many of them have too narrow a view of what might most effectively lead to success in their pursuit of a livelihood.
Whatever the technical or practical skills that might be thought necessary, the difference will be made by the quality of the imagination and curiosity that guides them. The successful entrepreneur is the person who has confronted a body of information and succeeded in making sense of it, of finding meaning in it that the competition had hitherto missed.
This is exactly what scholars and artists in all fields do. The exercise of the mind on hard books or works of art or observations about other people or nature is the single best preparation for any profession, whatever. I will quote only two people from the world of business.
The first is an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur of our time, about whom we have sadly read a great deal in recent days, Steve Jobs. He remarked, it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough, that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.
The second is John Rowe, chief executive of Exelon, the largest electric utility in the nation. He remarked, if anyone thinks that reading Samuel Pepys or Geoffrey Chaucer has nothing to do with running a large, politically-involved public utility, that would simply prove that they have never read Pepys, Chaucer, or run a public utility.
Poets should have the last word, and they probably always will. We remember them and how they help us understand, long after we have forgotten their contemporaries in most other walks of life. Cornell's own A.R. Ammons and his long poem titled Garbage captures beautifully what it is that makes art of a piece with science and every other scholarly pursuit, and thus, how it is that what all of us actually do throughout our college or university is one and the same thing.
He wrote the following lines-- Art makes life, just as it makes itself, an imitation. Art makes shape, order, meaning, purpose, where there was none, or none discernible, none derivable. Life, too, if it has to have meaning, must be made meaningful. If it is to have purpose, its purpose must be divined, invented, manifested, held to.
Jorge Luis Borges also wrote some lines about how it is that art and the study of it should be central to the lives of us all. In a translation by W.S. Merwin-- At times in the evening, a face looks at us out of the depth of a mirror. Art should be like that mirror, which reveals to us our own face. Thank you very much.
I see someone rising to the microphone--
The sort of Professor in whose class you better be prepared.
AUDIENCE: May I call you Don?
DON RANDEL: Yes.
AUDIENCE: Before I ask my question, I want to add my voice to David Skortons in thanking you for extraordinary contributions, not only to the humanities, but to Cornell. And your imprint is everywhere on this campus. And those of us who have spent our lives here appreciate it tremendously.
DON RANDEL: Thank you.
Now that I have my hand firmly on my wallet, you may proceed.
AUDIENCE: So in the spirit of tough questions, Don, do you think that humanists should do anything differently in their teaching, in their research, and as public intellectuals, not only to make the humanities more visible, but to represent humanistic traditions more effectively and better?
DON RANDEL: The short answer to that question is yes.
We should all do better whatever it is we do. I think there is a great need for scientists to do better in many of the same terms. As I say the question about the humanities is really the values that one explores best through them. And one can't retreat from that underlying fact.
There was a certain debate in this country for a time in which-- let's call it a conservative segment of opinion-- thought that the humanities had lost their way, that the humanities should really be teaching the same old books that they studied when they were in college. You know, it's interesting. One's taste in popular music ceases to evolve at about the age of 21 or 22.
And most people love the music they loved then for the rest of their lives. The same is true of undergraduate education. Most people think undergraduate education ought properly to be the undergraduate education that they had, whether that was 50 years ago or not.
The argument was, we have to get back to teaching the great old books that teach the great truths about Western civilization. A terrible mistake, I would say. We should teach those books, but we should teach every other book. And my view is that the students really ought to leave the university, more than anything, with the deepest sense of regret that they missed so much in those mere four years, and that they will never, ever succeed in learning as much as they would like to learn about all kinds of things.
So what we ought to teach here is not how to read some list of books. We ought to teach how to read any and all possible books, and instill in people the passionate curiosity.
SPEAKER 1: Thank you, Don.
DON RANDEL: Thank you.
SPEAKER 1: Before I share something exciting with you, let me take just one more moment to say the US Congress, in a bipartisan way, has created a commission to, in some ways, answer Glenn Altschuler's question and many others. And Don is supplying enormously important leadership to that institution. And it's being run through the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And in advance of the wisdom that you're going to continue to share with us, on behalf of a grateful university, and eventually a grateful nation, thank you Don Randel.
So as we know, and as Don has so eloquently, as always, reiterated, this deep commitment to the arts and humanities is an essential part of Cornell University. Understanding that commitment and trying, yet again, to make it concrete, I have a very special announcement to make. Cornell will erect a magnificent new building for the humanities-- the first on our campus for the humanities since Goldwin Smith opened in 1905.
This new building will sit snugly beside Goldwin Smith on the East Avenue side. It will connect with Goldwin Smith through a beautiful, expansive atrium-- which you're going to see in a moment here, why I never went into surgery, Don. This expansive atrium.
And its design includes new courtyards and green roofs and the largest auditorium on the arts quad. This project is going to cost $61 million. We're doing it completely by philanthropy. And I'm proud to tell you today that we're about 75% of the way there already.
And since we've asked Charlie Phlegar to eat his Wheaties anyway, we're going to get all the way there by January 1st.
A Cornell family-- who, for the time, being, wishes to remain anonymous-- has committed a lead gift of $25 million to the project. I'm very, very grateful for this extraordinary expression of confidence and support, not only in Cornell, but in these critical fields. Were it not for this family, I'm certain I would not be standing here today making this momentous announcement. When the time is appropriate, I hope you'll join me in thanking them.
Another of our very generous lead donors is with us today, and I'd like to recognize Tom Gross, class of '78, and his family for their wonderful gift. The Gross family includes an amazing number of dedicated Cornellians spread over four generations, beginning with Tom's grandfather, who was in the class of 1914. Tom's father, Richard Gross-- class of '52-- and late mother, Ethel Denton Gross-- '54-- were named four most benefactors of Cornell for the incredible depth and breadth of their support for students and faculty and facilities all across campus.
Tom and two of his siblings are Cornell alumni, and the next generation includes a recent graduate and two current students. And today, we thank Tom and his father, along with other members of the Gross family, for generously naming that beautiful atrium. And I'm delighted, Tom, that you can be here. And I want to give everyone a chance to thank you and your family, the Gross'.
I also want to take just a moment, if you'll indulge me, to recognize the leadership of Dean Peter Lepage of our College of Arts and Sciences. Peter-- a theoretical physicist, no less-- has been a tireless advocate for this building and has talked extensively with alumni and parents and friends about the significant impact it will have on the college. And as I told you, he hired 18 humanists this last year. He has done a great deal to bring us to this milestone, and I want you to join me in thanking Peter for all he does.
This building, Don, is proof positive that there still is a place for physics in the modern world.
Now, across the country, budgets are shrinking; opinion is not focused on the humanities. But I'm an optimist. As [INAUDIBLE] once said, and as Don knows, the university president is someone who is more optimistic than the facts support.
But I'm optimistic because there are people like Don Randel. There's nobody just like Don Randel, but there are people like Don Randel. And because there's people like the Gross' and this other family, and many others who have contributed and I know will contribute-- and with your support, and with the continuing focus on what we can't help but doing, we're going to be having many more days like this. Thank you, everyone. Enjoy TCAM. See you tonight.
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Cornell's unique combination of strengths in the humanities alongside its strengths in the sciences gives it unique challenges, said former Cornell Provost Don Randel Oct. 21 in Statler Auditorium during the Trustee Council Annual Meeting.
Randel, also a former dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, is president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He spoke immediately after President David Skorton's State of the University Address and just before Skorton announced that a new humanities building will be built on the Arts Quad, with groundbreaking targeted for 2013.