April 26, 2014

Three Cornellians Admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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Three Cornellians — Provost Kent Fuchs, Prof. Harry Greene, ecology and evolutionary biology, and Chuck Feeney ’56, founder of Atlantic Philanthropies — have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy announced Wednesday.

The Academy — a national honor society that leads independent policy research — admitted 204 new members for 2014, according to the press release. Members include scientists, scholars, public affairs officers, business leaders and philanthropists from a variety of universities and companies.

Greene, a leading herpetologist and snake expert, teaches herpetology, ecology and evolutionary biology and diversity at Cornell, and has been published in over 160 publications since 1961, according to Greene’s website.

“I was frankly astonished to learn I’ve been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” Greene said. “Many highly deserving people haven’t been selected and unlike many biologists who are focused on conceptual disciplines like genetics or ecology, I’ve always been primarily concerned with a particular group of organisms.”

Greene said his research has focused on the study of reptiles from a variety of environmental disciplines.

“I study snakes and other predators from the standpoints of evolution, ecology and conservation, but [snakes] themselves have always been my central concern,” he said.

Greene said his work is not focused solely on research.

“I’m perhaps also unusual in making little distinction among research, teaching and broader outreach”, he said. “Both of the books I’ve published, for example, are fundamentally science based, but also aimed at a broader research, and the more recent one even has the word ‘art’ in its title.”

Fuchs has been Cornell’s provost since January 2009, and prior to that served as the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering from 2002 to 2008. His research has been primarily focused on electrical and computer engineering.

Feeney founded private foundation Atlantic Philanthropies in 1982, and has donated $6.2 billion into education, science, health care, aging and civil rights according to a profile in Forbes Magazine. Feeney has donated $350 million — the largest donation in Cornell’s history — in 2011, which helped the University win the bid to build its tech campus in NYC.

Kenyan writer and activist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o — who spoke on campus on April 17 — was also elected to the Academy, according to the press release.