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Summer 2004

  Pomp and Humility
Ben Franklin provides modern lessons for the Class of 2004
  Friedman School Appoints New Dean
International nutrition policy expert brings new leadership
  In Pursuit of Provocative Ideas
Leading figure in bioethics to launch new lecture series
  Investing in the Community
Tufts signs historic agreement with Somerville and Medford
  Helping New England Farms
New veterinary school grant aims to preserve family farms
  Mission to El Salvador
Tufts dentists lead humanitarian delegation
Pomp and Humility

A dose of humility—or at least the appearance of such—is a worthy trait for both college graduates and national leaders, speaker Walter Isaacson told the audience at Tufts’ 148th commencement on May 23.

Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, drew on his latest best-selling biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. “Remember that virtue of humility,” he said.

Isaacson recounted Franklin’s interaction with members of the Leather Apron Club, a “workingman’s club.” Franklin prepared a chart listing all the virtues he wished to acquire and checked off each one as he mastered it. Once he had completed the task, he displayed the chart to his companions.

One fellow member pointed out that Franklin had forgotten one important virtue: humility. And, Isaacson said, Franklin replied in his wry fashion, “I was never very good about that.” And yet Franklin “became very good at the appearance of [humility],” Isaacson said, leading to the lesson that “appearances, if handled right, become part of your reality.”

This is a lesson that is all too valuable today, Isaacson said. He recalled how during the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush “[spoke] about the need for more humility in America’s foreign policy.” Now that Bush is president, “I understand the need for a more assertive foreign policy after 9/11,” Isaacson continued, “but I wish George W. Bush had learned from old Dr. Franklin at least to fake a little humility and listen to our allies.”

Isaacson was one of six accomplished people to receive honorary degrees this year. He was joined by Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong; musician Tracy Chapman, J86; former chair of the university’s Board of Trustees Nathan Gantcher, A62; U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and former National Science Foundation director, Walter Massey, now president of Morehouse College.

Isaacson said another important lesson can be drawn from Franklin’s mission to France to enlist support for the Colonial cause during the Revolution. “He appealed to France’s values and ideals,” Isaacson said. “[Franklin] realized that ideas had power. Now we are losing the war of ideas around the world, losing the war of values. This would dismay our founders.”

During the Constitutional Convention, Franklin again provided a valuable blueprint for civil conduct when he proposed the idea for a bicameral federal legislature, the House and the Senate. “Seek to find common ground,” Isaacson advised. “Compromisers don’t make great heroes, but they make great democracies.”

Following the Phase I commencement exercises, the School of Engineering and academic departments from Arts & Sciences hosted, for the first time, smaller events at which degrees were conferred within academic clusters.

The customized ceremonies allowed the departments to bring their own flavor to a timeless ritual. Geology handed out sheepskins and rock hammers. The ceremony for music, drama, and dance in Goddard Chapel featured an original composition by John McDonald, associate professor of music. Armstrong spoke at the ceremony for the School of Engineering.

Altogether, Tufts schools awarded degrees to 2,077 graduates.

The commencement ceremony for the School of Medicine and the Sackler School was marked by both levity and candor. “Don’t worry,” said Dean of the School of Medicine Michael Rosenblatt to newly minted Tufts doctors. “We have taught you well.” He then recounted his own early experience of residency, where, he admitted, “I was greener than Kermit the Frog.” After failing to diagnose his first three patients properly, Rosenblatt went to his supervisor and tendered his resignation. The offer was refused, and the fledgling physician learned that he was doing just fine by enlisting the aid of others.

Seek help, he advised the graduates. Try to stay involved with the public issues involving the practice of medicine, he continued. Finally, think deeply about ethics in everything that you do. “Medicine is ethical; the rest follows,” he said.

Friedman School Appoints New Dean

Eileen Kennedy, former federal official and nutrition policy expert, has been appointed dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

Kennedy has long championed nutrition research and its application to policy, from her seven years as a leading voice for nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to her studies of maternal and child health and nutrition in areas around the globe.

“Dr. Kennedy will bring bold leadership to the Friedman School of Nutrition, maintaining the steep trajectory of distinction that has characterized the school since its founding,” said President Lawrence S. Bacow.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Friedman School because its greatest strength is in the diversity of its curriculum and research,” said Kennedy. “No other school has the wealth of expertise in such a wide range of intersecting disciplines—from basic science to applied nutrition and policy research and development.”

While serving as deputy under secretary and then acting under secretary at the USDA, Kennedy created the “Healthy Eating Index,” a validated measure for monitoring nutrition, which earned her a worldwide reputation for expertise in this field. She also directed agencies that provided policy advice, analysis, and research on agriculture, biotechnology, nutrition, environment, food safety, economics, and agricultural extension.

Kennedy also was president of the Global Nutrition Institute, which links science-based nutrition research to action through public/private partnerships. She holds an undergraduate degree from Hunter College, master’s from Pennsylvania State University and Harvard University, and a Doctor of Science in Nutrition from Harvard’s School of Public Health.

In Pursuit of Provocative Ideas

Dr. Leon Kass, chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics and an advisor to President Bush on such topics as stem-cell research and cloning, will inaugurate the Richard E. Snyder President’s Lecture Series this fall.

Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago, is scheduled to speak in early October.

The lecture series aims to bring prominent public figures to campus to present provocative and perhaps controversial points of view on current events and issues of national and international importance, with the intention of stimulating thought and discussion that lead to deeper understanding.

The new series is named for Richard E. Snyder, A55, former chairman and CEO of Simon & Schuster. Snyder sought to establish a lecture series that responded to an aspect of Tufts life articulated by the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience. According to the task force, students and others in the college community identified a need to enhance and invigorate the intellectual climate on campus outside of the classroom.

Kass, who was named to head President Bush’s new Council on Bioethics, served as a main consultant to Bush as the president was considering his decision on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Kass has been engaged for more than 30 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances, and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues. He recently testified before Congress in favor of a ban on human cloning.profession.

Check the university calendar at events.tufts.edu for the exact date of the lecture.
Investing in the Community

Tufts University has entered into a partnership with the cities of Medford and Somerville that is expected to mutually benefit the economic future of all three entities.

At a news conference May 24 in Ballou Hall, President Lawrence S. Bacow announced an agreement that calls for the university to contribute $1.25 million to each city over 10 years. At the request of the communities, the funding will be accelerated in the first two years to assist with current budget shortfalls. In addition, Tufts is investing at least $300,000 per community in need-based financial aid to assist undergraduates attending Tufts from each city.

“This is a historic day for Tufts, Somerville, and Medford,” Bacow said. “For the first time, we have committed ourselves to a plan that includes a financial benefit.”

Bacow praised Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn as well as other officials. “Partnerships like this don’t just happen,” he said of the work that went into developing the agreement.

Bacow said that Tufts is proud of its presence in Somerville and Medford and noted that the university is the largest private employer in each city, with a payroll of $26 million. The partnership includes key benefits, such as:

  • Tufts providing $300,000 in need-based financial aid for students from Medford and Somerville;
  • Tufts’ early-childhood programs will continue to provide financial support for local children enrolled in the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School and the Tufts Educational Day Care Center;
  • Tufts will continue its educational and environmental programs in both cities. Students are involved in projects aimed at cleaning up the Mystic River as well as a variety of programs that involve children, including the Tufts Literacy Corps and the Center for Reading and Language Research. In addition, the Center for Engineering Outreach offers a range of programs that focus on science education for children and teachers;
  • Tufts will provide the communities a free environmental health and safety program to inventory and make recommendations on the handling of hazardous substances;
  • Tufts will reduce costs for Somerville and Medford residents who audit courses from the standard fee of $600 to $100 per course.

Helping New England Farms

A lmost half of the dairy farmers in New England have gone out of business over the last decade due to dropping milk prices and rising operating costs. A federal grant awarded to the School of Veterinary Medicine may help turn the tide.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tufts will undertake two initiatives to help preserve New England’s family farms, improve farm-animal welfare, and enhance environmental stewardship of farmland in the region.

The programs are being spearheaded by Dr. George Saperstein, professor of environmental and population health, Dr. Karl Andrutis, assistant professor of environmental and population health, and Associate Dean Joe McManus.

“By raising higher-value niche products for local consumers who care how their food is produced, regional farmers should be able to earn a sufficient living to keep their farms,” said Saperstein.

Faculty and staff at Tufts’ 250-acre farm on the Grafton campus and at Tufts’ Ambulatory Clinic in Woodstock, Connecticut, will collaborate on the programs.

In one initiative, Tufts will model alternative agricultural practices to demonstrate how farmers can raise and market eggs from free-range Araucana chickens and meat from free-range male dairy calves. Tufts also will develop a pilot practice to help farmers better manage their crop and pasture land through environmentally friendly composting and manure-handling techniques.

The other new initiative will enable Tufts to protect its Grafton farmland through a new land-use management plan. The university will conduct this environmental stewardship program with assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Massachusetts’ Cooperative Extension Service.


Mission to El Salvador

Faculty members and a student from the School of Dental Medicine and the Massachusetts Hispanic Dental Association (MHDA) recently traveled on their first humanitarian mission to El Salvador. The group reached out to current and future dentists through lectures and provided clinical care to patients during the trip.

The Tufts delegation included Dr. Stanton Wolfe, director of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Aidee Herman, clinical assistant professor in periodontology and former Hispanic Dental Association president, Dr. Zuzana Mendez, staff dentist in preventive care, and recent graduate Dr. Danny Pena, D04.

On the first day of their stay, 216 participants from Evangelica University benefited from lectures given by Wolfe and Herman, as well as one presented by Dr. Eugene Sekigushi, president of the American Dental Association.

At the university’s facilities, the team provided 374 dental treatments to 247 patients from local and rural communities, including children who had traveled as long as two hours to receive dental care.

Herman, who is also executive director of the MHDA, said “It was an inspiration to feel the passion and determination that Salvadorian people embrace, even though the country is still recovering from the war it suffered in the 1980s. I was personally amazed at the joy and comfort the Salvadorian people find in the simplest of activities, and for me this trip was a lesson of priorities, a lesson of meaning, and a lesson of determination that I will not forget any time soon. The team plans to come back in June 2005, and looks forward to meeting again with the friends that we now have in that part of the world.”