Last week, I was in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges & Universities. And as we mentioned on the blog last week, the AAC&U meeting was the forum in which Dr. Ira Harkavy of the University of Pennsylvania received his much-deserved 2015 Ernest L. Boyer Award from the New American Colleges and Universities (ANAC). I was privileged to attend Dr. Harkavy’s acceptance speech. Here’s a quick summary.
In accepting the Boyer Award, Dr. Harkavy delivered an incredibly thoughtful and inspirational address. His words interwove the history of higher education, the words of Ernie Boyer, the founding of the University of Pennsylvania, and the mission and work of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships as he laid out his argument for the connected university, an institution that lives out a commitment to the broad social impacts of higher education.
Harkavy asserted a key idea that unites the work of Ernest L. Boyer and Benjamin Franklin: “That core idea,” he said, “is this: Service is the basis for their revolutionary vision of higher education”. Harkavy continued,
The purpose of higher education is service to society, for the progressive betterment of the human condition. And to realize that purpose, Franklin in 1749 and Boyer two hundred and forty-five years later in 1994, each wrote in effect proposals to create the New American College. Franklin broke with tradition by founding the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) as deliberately unaffiliated from any religious denomination and therefore radically different from existing institutions of higher education in America or Europe. The College of Philadelphia was ‘dedicated to the advancement of scientific learning and knowledge for the betterment of humanity.’
While Boyer, a 1948 graduate of Messiah Bible College (now Messiah College) had a radically different religious orientation than the deist Franklin, he could not have agreed more with Franklin’s view that American higher education had a social mission. And for Boyer that mission specifically was realizing America’s founding democratic purpose. In 1994, in what has been extraordinarily influential in forming the New American College, he wrote: ‘Higher education and the larger purposes of American society have been from the very first inextricably intertwined.’
Warm congratulations to Ira Harvavy for this well-deserved honor! Thank you for your wonderful address that was such a meaningful tribute to the Netter Center, to the good work of ANAC, and to the ongoing and generative influence of Ernest L. Boyer.