May 5, 2006

Faculty Members Named to Academy

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Four Cornell faculty members have been elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), an international society of the world’s leading artists, scholars, public leaders and business people.

These faculty members are: Robert A. Buhrman Ph.D. ’73, the John Edson Sweet Professor of Engineering and director of Cornell’s Center for Nanoscale Systems; Dominick C. LaCapra, ’61 the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor of Humanistic Studies and director of Cornell’s School of Criticism and Theory; William B. Provine, the Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences and fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and Steven E. Stucky DMA ’78, the Given Foundation Professor of Composition and winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in music.

“It came as a real surprise, and I learned of it by several e-mails from Cornell colleagues who are already members,” Stucky said. “When I read that the Academy has existed since 1780 and saw a list of its very impressive membership, it was quite humbling to imagine myself in such company.”

Stucky won the Pulitzer for his Second Concerto for Orchestra and has written commissioned works for many major American orchestras and ensembles. He has been a Cornell faculty member since 1980 and associated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for more than 15 years. Stucky earned his bachelor’s degree in music from Baylor University in 1971 and both his MFA and his DMA from Cornell.

Stucky said it is too soon to know how his work as a composer will be influenced by the Academy.

“One could imagine that rubbing shoulders with its poets, painters and architects might suggest new kinds of collaboration,” he said.

LaCapra said he received congratulations before he was even aware that he had been elected as a fellow.

“At least in my case,” he said in a recent interview, “the Academy informed present members of the names of newly elected members before I was informed. Needless to say, I was happy when the puzzle was solved.”

LaCapra began teaching in Cornell’s Department of History in 1969. He served from 1993 to 2003 as director of the University’s Society for the Humanities, following two years as acting director. He received his B.A. from Cornell and both his M.A. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1970) from Harvard University.

Buhrman, who joined the Cornell faculty in 1973, studies the electronic and structural properties of thin-film systems and nanostructures that can resolve current problems in basic and applied condensed-matter physics. He earned his B.E.S. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1967 and both his M.S. and his Ph.D. degrees from Cornell.

Provine is working on four research projects, including a history of the theories of neutral molecular evolution and a history of geneticists’ attitudes toward race differences and race crossing. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1969 after earning his B.S. (1962), M.A. (1965) and Ph.D. (1970) degrees, all from the University of Chicago.

“The greatest gratification one can have is to run into a student who took a course with you years ago and who tells you that he or she still remembers the course and its role in developing a set of interests,” LaCapra said. “I like to imagine that election to the Academy might have something to do with a conversation someone on the selection committee had with a former student or a young scholar.”

According to the Cornell Chronicle, Buhrman, Edson, LaCapra and Provine join other newly named fellows, including former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and Rockefeller University President Sir Paul Nurse; and movie director Martin Scorsese.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has more than 4,000 fellows and over 600 foreign honorary members. It was founded by John Adams, George Washington and James Bowdoin and is based in Cambridge, Mass. The new fellows will be inducted into the Academy in October.

Archived article by Hailey Wilmer
Sun Contributor