The 2004 Frankel Symposium: Shaping Environmental Policy: Science in Context: Keynote Address

Article excerpt

Introduction by Susan Westerberg Prager:

I'm sorry to disrupt your conversations. My name is Susan Prager and I'm the former Dean of the UCLA Law School. I appreciate Sean Hecht asking me to introduce Don Kennedy today. For that, I thank you, and I think all of us thank you for putting together such an important program today ... I was thinking of this challenge of introducing a person that I've known for a very long time in a number of different contexts....

Don, one of the most impressive things to me about your teaching and your life is the countless people that you have taken the time to mentor over the decades. Don't be fooled, by the way, by that "Emeritus" label on this man's bio. He happened to mention to me in passing that very recently he has taught at the request of five different faculty members at Stanford portions of their courses--doing this at the same time as he has these very significant responsibilities at Science magazine. For those of you who are lawyers who've never looked at Science magazine, I urge you to think about it as a part of your broader education, because ... while it is reporting on truly cutting-edge scientific research, it is done in a way to make it acceptable to a much broader community than the things that might appear in other scientific publications. There's much to be learned from Don Kennedy's career about his qualities as a leader. During his twelve-year presidency at Stanford he accomplished so much. He clearly had an agenda and it included, just to name a few things, a drive to insure that there was a renewed institutional focus on undergraduate education. He managed to do that at the same time as Stanford was driving forward its research capacities and its achievements in research in a very big way. He was a bold campus planner on the facilities side. And what Stanford is able to do today is in very significant part due to the physical plant for engineering and science that was marked out by Don and his colleagues during his presidency. But this type of achievement, important as it is, is not the only picture about Don Kennedy.

Don has something that too few of our leaders embrace and even fewer actually live. His leadership is not about him. And he is a very open, non-defensive leader, and as a consequence, people love working with him and for him. I've had many conversations over the years with those who've been in that role and they talk about how Don has this quality of liberating those who work with him to take positions that they might think he wouldn't like and to have a true open-airing of the direction in which a particular problem ought to be resolved. We may take that kind of climate for granted in some disciplines, but it's very hard in a leadership position to do that day in and day out. This also played itself out in a way that was a very dramatic and public one, and that was when Stanford was in the midst of a controversy over indirect cost charges to the federal government.

... Going back many, many decades, Don's life has been interdisciplinary. Interdisciplinary before it was fashionable, before anyone was talking about it as a value in higher education. Our first panel today brought home the difficulties of achieving interdisciplinary work, but five years after Don arrived at Stanford in 1960, to become, in his words, "one of the workhorses of the core curriculum in biology," after he had spent four years teaching at Syracuse, he and a handful of others on the campus began to create an innovative program which has survived to this day: the Human Biology program. It became, for a very significant time, I believe, the most popular major at Stanford. And now, together with the Biology major, these are the two most popular programs.

It was a program that was ahead of its time in another sense. It was a program oriented toward a broader training to develop a greater literacy about science. Words that we use today, but words that weren't used then. …