March 10, 2011

AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx has agreed to be a part of a national American Academy of Arts and Sciences commission aimed at bolstering teaching and research in the liberal arts. Marx will join more than 40 other prominent Americans from the humanities, social sciences, physical and life sciences, business, law, philanthropy, arts and media on the new Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.


Other participants include Danielle S. Allen, Amherst trustee and professor of political science at the Institute for Advanced Study; Phil Bredesen Jr., former governor of Tennessee; David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times; Ken Burns, documentary director and producer; Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University; Emmylou Harris, musician/songwriter; George Lucas, producer, screenwriter, director, founder and chairman of Lucasfilm Ltd.; James McNerney, chairman, president and CEO of The Boeing Company; and David Souter, former justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, among others.

Chaired by Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, and John W. Rowe, chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, the group will draw on past research efforts, data from the Academy’s Humanities Indicators (, and the experience and expertise of its members to recommend specific, actionable steps to maintain the nation’s excellence in the humanities and the social sciences. It will focus on education, research and the institutions critical to advancing the humanities and social sciences in the nation, according to an Academy press release.

“The humanities and social sciences provide the intellectual framework for the nation’s economic, political, and governing institutions,” said Brodhead in the announcement. “They enrich our lives and our understanding. Americans already appreciate the importance of math and science to our future; this commission will remind Americans of the long-term importance of the liberal arts as well.”

The commission, which expects to complete its work over the next 18 to 24 months, was formed in response to a bipartisan request from U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and David Price (D-N.C.). It will respond to the following question:

What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the 21st century?

“Our nation’s long tradition of research and scholarship in humanities and social science has been the basis for an informed citizenry that comes from many countries, races, religions and cultures, but shares a common set of ideals, such as liberty, equal opportunity and the rule of law,” explained Alexander, who previously served as U.S. secretary of education and president of the University of Tennessee. “I am pleased that the American Academy is creating this Commission to provide recommendations on the best ways to maintain our nation’s excellence in humanities and social science education, from grade-school history classes to graduate-level economic research.”

The findings of the commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences will serve as a companion to a forthcoming report of the National Academies on the future of the research university and ways to strengthen the American scientific enterprise.

A national assessment of the humanities and social sciences has not been conducted in 30 years, since the 1980 report of the Rockefeller Commission on the Humanities.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on the humanities and culture, science and technology policy, global security, social policy and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,300 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world.