On April 6, 2017, Jonathan Fanton opened the ceremony for the awarding of the Emerson-Thoreau Medal and the Talcott Parsons Prize. Toni Morrison, recipient of the Emerson-Thoreau Medal, accepted her award via video after an introduction from Christopher Benfy. Joan Wallach Scott accepted the Talcott Parsons Prize after being introduced by Laurel Ulrich.
The ceremony served as the 2053rd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Good evening and welcome. I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the Academy, and it is my pleasure to call to order the 2053rd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Today, the Academy’s Council, Trust, and Board met for their semiannual in-person meetings. Please join me in thanking all of the members of our governance bodies for their guidance, wisdom, and optimism about the Academy.
I especially want to thank the chair of our board, Don Randel, for his partnership throughout the years and his dedication to this institution. Don’s extraordinary term as chair is coming to an end in June. The Academy is a stronger, more active, interesting, and vibrant organization as a result of his leadership. Please join me in thanking Don Randel for his service to the American Academy.
This evening is our annual awards program – our version of “the Academy Awards.” We have seven major prizes and awards representing the variety of field and disciplines within the Academy – the Francis Amory Prize in Biology, the Rumford Prize for Physical Science, Award for Humanistic Studies, the Sarton Prize for Poetry, the Sarton Prize for History of Science – and tonight’s awards – the Talcott Parsons Prize for Social Science and the Emerson-Thoreau Medal for Literature.
Academy prize selections are overseen by a committee chaired with great care by Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies and a member of our board. The committee solicited nominations from Academy Fellows, compiled strong lists of candidates, and then sent the lists out for appraisal by other Academy Fellows. We are grateful to all of the Fellows who participated in this process and honored by the selections they have made.
Tonight, we present awards to two Fellows whose work has changed how we think about the past, has helped us to see the present more clearly, and has encouraged us to dream of a future society that is more compassionate and more inclusive.