Inauguration of Anthony P. Monaco
A college education doesn’t simply benefit individuals; it generates knowledge and discovery that serve all of society, said Anthony P. Monaco at his inauguration as Tufts University’s 13th president on Oct. 21.
“At its best, higher education offers a chance of freedom to any deserving young person, the freedom to escape the limitations of one’s knowledge or experience or social class—and to live up to one’s abilities,” he said.
Universities and the students they educate have a vital role in solving the complex problems the world faces, he said. To tackle those issues, universities need to foster robust and far-reaching collaborations across academic disciplines, a course that Tufts is already on.
Consider the fact that almost a billion people around the world don’t have access to clean water every day, a problem that Tufts is addressing by marshaling resources in six different schools under a single program, Water: Systems, Science and Society. “This is a complex issue that encompasses politics, climate, engineering, medicine and agriculture,” said Monaco, who was robed in the Tufts colors of brown and blue.
Students in that program recently were involved in an agreement to foster collaboration in the Middle East on the management of water resources. “This is the first step in a plan to bring together other countries in the Middle East, where conflicts over water are common—and clean water is often scarcer than oil,” he said.
Monaco said that Prof. Richard Vogel, the faculty chair of the water program, told him that “it takes a university” to solve such daunting challenges. “I couldn’t agree more,” the president said, noting that his administration will emphasize these kinds of interdisciplinary programs—ones that “address multiculturalism and globalization as well as issues in environmental, life and health sciences. If we focus on shared goals and integrate our activities across our schools, we can greatly amplify Tufts’ impact on society,” he said.
Such active citizenship, Monaco said, “is part of our Jumbo DNA. It is passed from one generation to the next.”
He pointed to the pivotal roles played by alumni such as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A48, F49, F61, H68, who served presidents of both parties “with his insights on poverty in America;” Pierre Omidyar, A88, and his wife, Pamela Omidyar, J89, whose Omidyar Network is sparking global economic, social and political change; and Gloria White-Hammond, M76, who founded My Sister’s Keeper, a humanitarian organization helping women in Sudan and around the world.
But Tufts isn’t just about education, Monaco noted in his inaugural address. It is “a place to be oneself,” he said. “We value people regardless of their beliefs, cultural background, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity. Those who are oppressed and stigmatized within the broader society are welcomed at our doorstep. We feel passionately that they should be able to study in an environment free of discrimination.”
Ensuring access to a Tufts education will be another priority of his tenure, Monaco said. He cited his own experience as the first in his family to graduate from a private university, thanks to generous financial aid.
“Without that help, I probably would have never become a scientist, would not have had the opportunity to explore the origins of disease, and I certainly would not be standing before you today,” he said. “College can make all the difference in the world.”
He noted that universities like Tufts “are one of our society’s wisest investments. They develop civic-minded people. And they generate the knowledge that allows those people to lead us into the future.”
A Natural Leader
James A. Stern, E72, A07P, chair of the Board of Trustees, welcomed the crowd of more than 1,300 assembled on the residential quad on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus. Representatives from more than 100 universities and colleges joined faculty, students, staff, alumni and guests at the ceremony. Garbed in full academic regalia, the delegates from higher education institutions and learned societies were led by Andrew Hamilton, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, and the university’s registrar, Ewan McKendrick.
Monaco’s “scholarly accomplishments make him a natural leader for our faculty,” said Stern. “His warmth and compassion make him a natural leader for our students. His demonstrated administrative skill makes him a natural leader for our staff. And his commitment to Tufts and its core values make him a natural leader for our community around the world.”
Monaco, who has a Ph.D. from Harvard and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, was pro-vice-chancellor for planning and resources at the University of Oxford before assuming the Tufts presidency in August. A distinguished neuroscientist, he identified the first gene specifically involved in human speech and language.
Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University, Monaco’s undergraduate alma mater, said that Monaco’s career to date “reflects his deep commitment to science in the service of human health and welfare, and that on a larger scale is what universities must be about: the pursuit of knowledge in all its dizzying variety, not for personal fulfillment but in the service of society broadly writ.”
“Tony exemplifies the power of higher education to change lives,” Tilghman said, “and in changing lives to ensure that our nation takes full advantage of all its people, regardless of race, creed or material circumstances.”
Sally Shuttleworth, who headed Oxford’s Humanities Division when Monaco was pro-vice-chancellor, said she served with him on an array of committees as the university faced financial cutbacks, especially in her division. She praised his willingness to devote resources to the humanities, even once transferring monies from the medical division.
“As pro-vice-chancellor for planning and resources, he fulfilled with extraordinary grace and good humor the most difficult role in the university—the role to coordinate decisions as to who got what,” said Shuttleworth, a professor of English literature at Oxford. “As you might imagine, this was no simple task,” she added, but he always rose to the occasion.
“In Tony Monaco, you have a warm, generous, principled and deeply humane president who will be a worthy successor to his forebears,” said Shuttleworth.
Greetings from the Community
The inauguration ceremony featured music by the Tufts University Wind Ensemble, directed by John McCann, and a cappella performances by the student groups Amalgamates, Beelzebubs, Essence, Jackson Jills, Shir Appeal, Anchord and sQ.
Representatives of the faculty, undergraduates, graduate and professional students, administration and alumni officially welcomed their new president.
Julian Agyeman, chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning in the School of Arts and Sciences, served on the presidential search committee that recommended Monaco for the position. “With the faculty at your side, there will be no barriers or limits to your presidency,” he said.
Other greeters were Tomas Garcia, A12; Falon Gray, V13; Janet Kerle, associate dean of students at the School of Medicine; and Barbara Clarke, J88, president of the Tufts University Alumni Association.
A Link with the Past
Monaco was invested as president by Stern, who presented him with the charter of Tufts College, granted by the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1852.
Stern also presented Monaco with the keys to Ballou Hall, the oldest building on campus, which was named for Tufts’ first president, Hosea Ballou II, and is home to the president’s office. Monaco received a medallion inscribed with the names and terms of service of each of Tufts’ past presidents on the links of a chain.
Following the ceremony, a reception was held on the academic quad, on a bright and sunny afternoon.
The inaugural week began on Monday, Oct. 17, with an arts showcase on the Medford/Somerville campus, and a community reception on the Grafton campus on Oct. 18. On the health sciences campus in Boston on Oct. 19, presenters at an academic symposium explored advances in child development, and a community reception followed.
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Taylor McNeil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.