Category Archives: Conversations With Interesting People

In Conversation with Danny Meyer

On May 15, 2014, Jonathan sat down with renowned New York City restauranteur, Danny Meyer, to discuss his life in and outside of the restaurant business. Jonathan’s introductory remarks are below and video of the event will be available shortly. The conversation lasts 40 minutes, followed by a Q&A session with members of the audience. 

In Conversation with Danny Meyer

May 15, 2014 

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening.  Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Bruce Katz’s Metropolitan Revolution or to hear global leaders like South African Constitutional Court justice Edwin Cameron.  Or attend major conferences like “John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream,” a fresh look at lessons from his time as Mayor.

But tonight is different.  For the past few years I have had a series of public conversations at Roosevelt House with the most interesting people I know personally.  Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMa President Agnes Gund, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, Judy Collins, and most recently, Joseph Califano and former Columbia President Michael Sovern.

My guest tonight is Danny Meyer, New York’s leading restaurateur.  You know the names, Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern, Maialino, Blue Smoke, Untitled at the Whitney and The Modern at MoMA and, of course, Shake Shack.  How many in the audience have eaten at one of Danny’s places?

Danny is from St. Louis, majored in Political Science at Trinity College, worked in Italy in his father’s tour business and opened his first restaurant at age 27, The Union Square Café.  And that is how we know each other – I was President of the New School and Chair of the Union Square – 14th Street Local Development Corporation at the time and Danny joined our Board.  He was one of the pioneers in the transformation of Union Square from “Needle Park” as it was known in the early 80’s, to the safe, clean, vibrant Park it is today.

He was the model of a responsible, engaged businessman taking an interest in the people, institutions and local businesses that called Union Square home.  And when I moved to Chicago to head the MacArthur Foundation, Danny was one of the key people who assumed leadership of the LDC.  Speaking of Chicago, we have another tie: his grandfather, Irving Harris was a friend of mine in Chicago as we shared so many interests from the Harris Public Policy School at the University of Chicago to the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which provides underserved communities with high quality early childhood care and education. I know Irving was very proud of Danny’s accomplishments.

Danny has written several books:  The Union Square Café Cookbook,  Second Helpings From Union Square Café, and the one I like the best, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business Setting the Table gives us an insight into Danny’s deep caring for humanity, his respect for his employees and the customer experience, his taste for risk, his dedication to quality.

That quality is reflected in numerous awards and prizes. Danny and the Union Square Hospitality Group account for 14 James Beard Awards, and 3 of New York City’s top 10 most popular restaurants according to Zagat’s 2014 Survey, a list that in the past has been topped by Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern 15 times.

But his recognition goes far beyond his restaurant work.  In 2010 Cooper Union recognized him with its Urban Citizenship Award, and NYU followed a year later with the Lewis Rudin Award of Exemplary Service for New York.  In addition to the Union Square LDC, Danny has served on the Boards of Share Our Strength, City Harvest and the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

So we have a lot to talk about.  Danny and I will chat for about 35-40 minutes and then open to your questions.  Our program will finish at 7:15.

 

 

 

In Conversation with Michael I. Sovern

On April 23, 2014, Jonathan sat down with President Emeritus of Columbia University, Michael I. Sovern, to discuss his life and the 60 years he spent at Columbia. Below are Jonathan’s opening remarks. Video of the event can be viewed hereThe conversation lasts 50 minutes, followed by a Q&A session with members of the audience. 

Michael I. Sovern

April 23, 2014

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening.  Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Jeffery Sachs’ To Move the World or to hear global leaders like UNDP head Helen Clark.  Or attend major conferences like “John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream,” a fresh look at lessons from his time as Mayor.

But tonight is different.  For a long time I wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally.  Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMa President Agnes Gund, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, Judy Collins, and most recently, Joseph Califano and Elizabeth McCormack.

Tonight my guest is Michael Sovern, who was President of Columbia when I was president of the New School.  I sought him out when I came to the New School because Columbia was the old school from which the founders of the New School, mainly Columbia professors, split in 1919 in protest of Columbia president Nicholas Murray Butler, who would brook no opposition to America’s entry into World War I.  I wanted to understand the institution that gave the New School its reason for being.  Mike and I hit it off right away.  I liked his clear and strategic thinking, admired his political ­­­astuteness and found his vision for Columbia and private higher education compelling.

We made common cause in Albany advocating for New York State support for private universities.  And I turned to him for advice on challenges at the New School, how to handle labor disputes, explore alternatives to tenure, and how to reduce budgets while moving the university forward. His most valuable advice came in the Spring of 1997 when there was a season of student discontent at the New School: sit ins, hostage taking, and a hunger strike.

He had seen it all at Columbia and our frequent conversations were a source of comfort, perspective, and practical wisdom.  I will never forget his comments on the hunger strike, “The students will cheat and you will know it, but don’t expose them because the challenge might encourage high strung students to put themselves at risk.”  Well that difficult Spring came to an end with no terrible consequence and campus life returned to normal in the Fall with no scars because I had kept my cool with Mike’s help.

Mike Sovern is Columbia through and through earning his BA and Law degrees and teaching there ever since with only one interruption when he started his teaching career at the University of Minnesota Law School for 2 years.  When he returned to the Law Faculty, he taught Evidence and Administrative Law, and published his research in several books among them Legal Restraints on Racial Discrimination in Employment,  Cases and Materials on Law and Poverty, and  Of Boundless Domains.

Turning our attention to his leadership abilities, we look to the quarter century Mike spent in a leadership position at Columbia.  In the turbulent late 60’s he chaired the Executive Committee of the Columbia faculty, which led the University’s efforts to ease tensions between protesting students and President Grayson Kirk’s embattled administration.  Appointed Dean of the Law School in 1970, he became Provost in 1978 and then president of Columbia two years later, a post he held until 1992.

As president he quadrupled Columbia’s endowment, recruited many outstanding faculty, opened Columbia College to women, and put Columbia on a firm financial footing.

His success at bringing peace to a contentious campus drew on his experiences in arbitrating disputes, for example, mediating between the Transit Authority and the Transport Workers Union, and later mediating between the city and the police and firefighters.  He also chaired The New York City Charter Revision Commission and The State-City Commission on Integrity in Government.

He has had an active civic life, helping start and serving on the board of organizations, like Mobilization for Youth Legal Services, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Asian Cultural Council, Channel 13, the American Academy in Rome.  All have benefitted from his wisdom, as have the Shubert Foundation and Sotheby’s of which he was chair.

Bridging the public, not for profit and private sectors is a specialty of Mike’s given his service on the ATT, Pfizer, Chase, and Comcast Boards.

So Michael Sovern has seen a lot and has just published a memoir, An Improbable Life. Let’s get to it.  He and I will have a conversation for about 50 minutes, and then open to your questions, and be done by 7:20. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Michael Sovern.

In Conversation with Elizabeth McCormack

On March 12, 2014, Jonathan sat down with Elizabeth McCormack to discuss her long career as both an academic administrator and as philanthropic adviser to the Rockefeller family. The conversation lasts 55 minutes, followed by a Q&A session with members of the audience. Video of the event can be viewed here.

Elizabeth McCormack

March 12, 2014

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening.  Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Jeffery Sachs’ To Move the World or to hear world leaders like UNDP head Helen Clark.  And next week we encourage you to attend our conference on “John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream,” a fresh look at lessons from his time as Mayor.

But tonight is different.  I have long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally.  Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMa President Agnes Gund, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, Judy Collins, and most recently, Joseph Califano.

My guest tonight is my good friend and mentor Elizabeth McCormack.  We first met when she was working for John D. Rockefeller and I for Yale President Kingman Brewster.   As our two bosses talked about establishing a center at Yale for the study of the not-for-profit sector, Elizabeth and I chatted in her office in Room 5600 at 30 Rock.  We clicked immediately; the chemistry was magic.  And years later when I returned to New York as President of the New School, she tutored me on the art of being a college President.

Fast forward 17 years when she was on the search committee for a new President of the MacArthur Foundation.  She was my advocate.  No surprise I was offered the job.  For nearly four decades she has been my most trusted advisor.  I never consider an important move without seeking her advice.  And we continue to make common cause on the Board of the Asian Cultural Council.  Together with my wife Cynthia, and Elizabeth’s late husband Jerry Aron, we have had a wonderful and deep friendship.

She earned her B.A. at Manhattanville College and a Ph.D in philosophy at Fordham.  In her senior year at Manhattanville, Elizabeth joined the Order of the Sacred Heart and soon began teaching at its schools, Kenwood in Albany and later in Greenwich.  In 1962, she became Dean at Manhattanville.  Appointed President in 1966, she led its transformation from an elite Catholic women’s institution into a non-denominational co-ed college.  After Manhattanville, she became Director of the Rockefeller Philanthropy offices and remains a philanthropic advisor to members of the family.

She has had about as active of a civic life as anyone I know.  She chaired the Asian Cultural Council for 20 years; was vice chair of the MacArthur Board; a key member of the Board of the Atlantic Philanthropies; a member of the  boards of Manhattanville, Spellman, Marlboro and Hamilton Colleges, as well as the Juilliard School.  She has also been on the boards of the Population Council, The Trust for Mutual Understanding, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and recently she started the Partnership for Palliative Care which is her current major interest.

Bill Moyers described her life beautifully when he said, Elizabeth McCormack “reminds us of the things that last, that transcend the tumult of the hour and the news of the day.  Her life is about connections and continuities between past and present, between now and future, between the natural world and the world we make together.”

Those qualities I saw close up at the MacArthur Foundation where she has the surest instinct for philanthropy, a laser insight into people, an ability to visualize a grant strategy in fields like population, conservation and education.

I said this at the conclusion of her term at MacArthur:

“She loves to build institutions, strengthen their governance, clarify their purpose, improve their quality and extend their influence in pursuit of a more just and humane world at peace.  We have benefitted from her deep experience in how things really work.  Her impatience with fuzzy thinking have lifted our standards, saved us from not a few mis-steps and made this a better foundation.”

Elizabeth and I will have a conversation for 40 minutes or so, then open up to your questions and end about 7:15.  Please welcome Elizabeth McCormack.

In Conversation with Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

On February 11, 2014, Jonathan sat down with Joseph A. Califano, Jr. to discuss his long career in public service.

Click on this link to view video of the event.

 

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

February 11, 2014

 

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening.  Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our conference entitled Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.

Tonight is different.  I have long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally.  Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMa President Agnes Gund, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, Harvard Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, and most recently, Judy Collins.

My guest tonight is my good friend, Joseph Califano, who is an active member of our Roosevelt House Board and was the driving force behind our conference on Lyndon Johnson’s domestic record two years ago.  When he was appointed H.E.W. Secretary by Jimmy Carter, he asked two friends, Kingman Brewster, President of Yale and McGeorge Bundy, President of the Ford Foundation to loan him people to assist in recruiting senior H.E.W. staff.  I came from Yale where I had been President Brewster’s Chief of Staff and Peter Bell came from Ford.  I worked on finding candidates for jobs like Director of the Center for Disease Control and the Assistant Secretary for Health.  I learned a lot from Joe in my three month tour and was privileged to watch Joe blend principled policies with practical politics for the benefit of the President and the nation.

We reconnected when I was President of the New School whose remarkable chair, Dorothy Hirshon was the mother of Joe’s wife Hillary.  Hillary and Joe have been our dear friends both here and in Connecticut.

In between my work for Joe at H.E.W. and our reconnection in New York through Hillary, I was teaching 20th Century American History at the University of Chicago.  The very best book on how government works was Joe’s The Triumph as Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson a sympathetic but honest look at The Great Society and the impact of war. My students loved it.

Somehow in his busy life Joe has found time to author a dozen books including a memoir Inside: A Public and Private Life,  A Presidential Nation, America’s Health Care Revolution: Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Pays? Some of my questions tonight will be drawn from these books.

As background for our conversation here is a video describing a remarkable life.  After the video, Joe and I will have a conversation for 40 minutes or so and then open up to your questions and wrap up around 7:15.

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt would be pleased that we are having this conversation in their house this evening with a person who understands –and has tried to implement – FDR’s vision for a national health program.  Hear the President’s words first in a letter to the nation on July 1938 and then a message to Congress on The National Health Program in January 1939.

“Nothing is more important to a nation than the health of its people…The economic loss due to sickness is a very serious matter not only for many families with and without incomes but for the nation as a whole…We cannot do all at once everything that we should do. But we can advance more surely if we have before us a comprehensive, long-range program, providing for the most efficient cooperation of Federal, state, and local governments, voluntary agencies, professional groups, media of public information, and individual citizens.”

In Conversation with Judy Collins

On October 30, 2013, Jonathan sat down with acclaimed recording artist and activist, Judy Collins, to talk about her life and career. She concluded the evening by leading the audience in a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Below are his introductory remarks. Video of this event will be available shortly.

Judy Collins

October 30, 2013

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening.  Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Bruce Katz’s Metropolitan Revolution, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our conference entitled Ike Reconsidered, Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century. 

Tonight is different.  I have long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally.  Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, and more recently, Harvard Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

Tonight is extra special for me.  My guest is Judy Collins, my good friend whose music touches my soul like no other.  I was introduced to her music by my good friends Art and Chris Singer, who bought me Judy’s album Wildflowers as a house warming gift when I was working at Yale in the late 1960’s.  From the very first time I heard her I was captivated and have followed her career ever since, right up to the Carlyle earlier this month.

As I faced my 17th and final commencement as President of the New School in 1999 I was anxious about how I could get through that emotional moment.  I asked myself what would ease the pain of separation, lift my spirits, give me strength to say goodbye to an institution I loved.  The answer: to walk down the aisle of the Riverside Church, where commencement was held, for the last time with Judy Collins singing Amazing Grace behind me.  So I asked her and was amazed with a quick yes.

The trustees then decided to confer upon her an honorary doctorate.  The citation I read said, in part, “Yours is artistry with a clear moral compass and through the alchemy of your art that compass is embedded in our memories – and our aspirations – as an inescapable measure of our progress.”  The occasion was magical and our friendship began that day and expanded to include Cynthia and Louis as we discovered we had weekend houses near each other in Connecticut.  So we have a lot to talk about.

We think of Judy as a talented artist whose music has enriched our lives, raised our sights, fired our determination to build a more just and humane world at peace.  But she is also a gifted writer of several memoirs, a novel entitled Shameless, and a reflection that helps us through challenging times, The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy.”  I highly recommend her most recent memoir, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes.

 

It tells the story of her life from her birthplace in Seattle to Denver where she grew up and made her debut as a classical pianist, to her embrace of folk music here in the 1960’s, at Gerdes,  The Village Gate and other places we remember.  Along the way we appreciate the challenges she faced, polio at age 11, T.B. in 1962, battles with alcohol addiction and the loss of her only child, Clark. The honesty with which she has chosen to share her pain and her happiness is a gift to her audience, bringing them closer to the deeper inspirations for her art. Her songs are a living chronicle of the heartache and joy of the human condition, of once being lost and then being found.

And as she faced these challenges her career took off, the first of thirty-eight albums, A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961, thirteen singles on the charts from “Both Sides Now” to “Turn Turn Turn”and “Someday Soon.”  Judy was at the epicenter of the people who made the music we grew up with, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and more. A Grammy in 1968, six academy award nominations for a documentary about her classical music instructor and other awards followed.

At a Carnegie Hall memorial concert for Woody Guthrie in 1968, she shared the stage with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens and others. Imagine the energy in that room. One of the songs played that night was Woody Guthrie’s “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt.”

…”don’t hang your head and cry;

His mortal clay is laid away, but his good work fills the sky;

This world was lucky to see him born”

 I think Eleanor and Franklin would be pleased that Judy Collins is in their home tonight.

Judy’s music and personal courage inspired our generation to oppose racism, resist the Viet Nam war, press for a ban on landmines and fight for women’s rights and social justice.  She has traveled the world for UNICEF to see firsthand the devastation of the war in Bosnia and Croatia and has advocated for support for Vietnamese children affected by the war.

There is much more to be said but let’s bring that out in our conversation.  We will talk for about thirty minutes and then open up to your questions. And after the program, Judy will be upstairs to autograph CD’s and DVD’s.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Judy Collins.

In Conversation with John Seely Brown

On July 17, 2013, Jonathan sat down with self-described “Chief of Confusion” and former Chief Scientist for the Xerox Corporation, John Seely Brown. They discussed his life, legacy, and the  role of innovation and entrepreneurship in a rapidly changing society. The video can be viewed here.

John Seely Brown

July 17, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our recent conference entitled Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, and, more recently, civic leader Rita Hauser who is here tonight.

Tonight is a very special night for me. Our guest is John Seely Brown, who has been my mentor both at the New School and at the MacArthur Foundation where he was a trustee for a decade. JSB, as most people call him, is a modest man, a generous man who cares, listens deeply and tries to help. And does.

Every person and institution is different, better, after an encounter with John Seely Brown.

He did his undergraduate work at Brown University and then earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in computer and communications science. He had a long career at Xerox, serving as its chief scientist and Director of the Xerox Parc research center. In that fruitful period, inventions and insights into human nature flowed non-stop from Palo Alto. I think of the PAIR program, which fosters collaboration between artists and technology researchers who are using new social media, PARC’s efforts to develop new printing laser technology, which has made printers faster and more efficient, and JSB’s insights into how businesses can maximize their human resources and build effective and collaborative work environments.

JSB is a scholar in his own right, having published  over 100 papers in scientific journals and authored must-read books like The Social Life of Information, The Only Sustainable Edge, The Power of Pull, Design Unbound and The New Culture of Learning. He has lectured at universities around the world and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Southern California.

In addition to MacArthur, he has served on the Boards of Brown University, Amazon, Corning and Polycom. And he is in demand as an advisor to governments around the world from Singapore to Spain.

At the New School JSB served on the President’s Technology Advisory Committee. He helped us put the “New” back in the New School as we became a pioneer over 20 years ago in distance learning, one of the first universities to offer a degree earned wholly online. And he saved Parsons School of Design which had been slow to adapt to technology by persuading us to start an interdisciplinary knowledge union with state of the art equipment.

He was one of the first new trustees I recruited when I came to MacArthur. And he made a difference. Here is what I said at his retirement party:

“John, the most interesting work of our generation at MacArthur flows from your partnership with our staff. You transformed the way we think, view the world, do our work. Our language changed as we spoke of emotional listening, complex adaptive systems, the power of pull, going to the edge, pushing beyond our comfort zone, crafting new learning environments and 21st century skills.”

And it was JSB who proposed we create a Fund for New Ideas to encourage people to put forward fresh, risky ideas of their own. All of us who have been told repeatedly by self-satisfied foundation staff that our ideas are out of program know how important JSB’s determination to open up was. New fields like Neuroscience and the Law and projects like E.O. Wilson’s Encyclopedia of Life were supported by the Fund which JSB chaired.

So I look forward to our conversation.

In Conversation with Hanna Holborn Gray

On May 2, 2013 Jonathan Fanton sat down with former President of the University of Chicago, Hanna Holborn Gray, to discuss her renowned career.

Hanna Holborn Gray
May 2, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a very special evening. Many of you have been here before to enjoy book discussions like Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, hear world leaders like former Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno Ocampo, or talk presidential politics during our recent conference entitled Ike Reconsidered: Lessons from the Eisenhower Legacy for the 21st Century.

Tonight is different. I have been long wanted to have a series of conversations with the most interesting people I know personally. Ed Koch was my first guest, followed by former MoMA President Agnes Gund, Vartan Gregorian of the Carnegie Foundation, James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio, and, most recently, Harvard Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

Tonight I will have a conversation with my close friend and mentor, Hanna Holborn Gray. I first met Hanna in 1971 when she was elected to the Board of Yale University and I was Assistant to President Kingman Brewster. But I had known her father with whom I studied European History some years before. In 1974 Hanna became Provost of Yale and shortly I joined her as Associate Provost. When Kingman left to be Ambassador to England, Hanna became Acting President and she and I made common cause in rescuing Yale’s major capital fund drive. And when Chicago recruited her to be its President, she asked me to join her as Vice President for Planning.

Along the way, I became close friends with Hanna and her remarkable husband and fellow historian, Charles, with whom I had frequent games of squash.

She and I continue to work together on the Board of Scholars at Risk. She has been a staunch advocate of academic freedom and knows firsthand the dangers of oppression as her father and mother were forced to flee Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s.

Growing up in the New Haven area, she attended Bryn Mawr College and went on to earn her Ph.D. in History at Harvard where she taught before moving to the University of Chicago with Charles. Her gift for leadership earned her in rapid succession appointments as the Dean of Northwestern University’s Arts and Sciences, Provost at Yale and President of the University of Chicago where she did an outstanding job in strengthening the faculty and the college and graduate divisions.

Along the way, she gave leadership to important institutions, serving as Chair of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation and serving on the boards of Harvard, the Smithsonian Institution, Bryn Mawr, the Mayo Clinic and Brookings among others.

She was co-editor with Charles of the Journal of Modern History and is author of Searching for Utopia: Universities and Their Histories.

I could go on. But you get the point. Hanna Holborn Gray is an extraordinary person. She is smart, courageous, inspiring, demanding but loyal and fun to be with. She has laser insight into people’s characters and motivations and an awesome ability to put the present in a historical context that reveals layers of meaning.

Whatever good I have done in my career owes to her honest and caring mentorship.