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Sir James Wolfensohn, Visionary Advocate, to Receive IAS Bamberger Medal

Institute’s Highest Honor to be Presented at IAS Einstein Gala on March 12, 2020
September 12, 2019
Press Contact
Lee Sandberg

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) announces Sir James Wolfensohn as the recipient of the 2020 IAS Bamberger Medal, to be presented at the IAS Einstein Gala on March 12, 2020, at the Glasshouse in New York City. Former President of the World Bank and current Chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C., Wolfensohn is being honored for his vision for and stewardship of the Institute. A Trustee since 1979, and the Board’s longest-serving Chair (1986–2007), Wolfensohn invigorated the leadership and highest aspirations of the Institute through his passionate commitment to its mission and his global leadership and perspective.

“As Chair of the Institute’s Board, Jim led the Institute into the twenty-first century, greatly expanded the institution’s financial resources, affirmed the importance of the arts to science and scholarship, and furthered global outreach and broad respect for the IAS as one of the world’s leading centers for intellectual inquiry,” stated Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute Director and Leon Levy Professor. “His exceptionally diversified achievements as an individual are equaled by his strength of character, good judgement, and sense of humor. The Institute is proud to honor our longtime leader, colleague, and wonderful friend with the IAS Bamberger Medal.”

Charles Simonyi, Technical Fellow at Microsoft Corporation and current Chair of the Institute’s Board, and Jim Simons, Chair of the Simons Foundation and IAS Trustee Emeritus, will serve as Honorary Chairs of the IAS Einstein Gala.

“Jim Wolfensohn is a tireless leader, motivator, and friend. His work has strengthened the mission and integrity of the Institute in innumerable ways,” stated Charles Simonyi IAS Board Chair. “With adroit expertise and agility, Jim struck a rare balance between conservation and renewal to move the Institute forward.”

The IAS Bamberger Medal is the Institute’s highest honor, presented in recognition of visionary support of the Institute’s pioneering research. The medal is named in honor of Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld, the brother-and-sister philanthropists who provided the founding $5 million gift to establish IAS as envisioned by the education reformer Abraham Flexner, the Institute’s founding Director. IAS Trustee Emeritus James H. Simons, mathematician, Chair of the Simons Foundation, and Founder and Board Chair of Renaissance Technologies, was the recipient of the inaugural IAS Bamberger Medal in 2019.

The event will take place the week of the 141st anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth. Einstein was a founding Professor of IAS, arriving in 1933 and working at the Institute until his death in 1955.

About Jim Wolfensohn
Former President of the World Bank and current Chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C., Sir James Wolfensohn has been a Trustee of the Institute since 1979. He served as Chair of the Board of Trustees from 1986 until October 2007 when he became Chair Emeritus, making him the longest-serving Chair in the Institute’s history thus far. Wolfensohn helped steward the growth of the Institute’s endowment, which more than doubled in real terms under his leadership. His many accomplishments as Chair included overseeing the endowment of six Professorships across the Institute’s four Schools. Wolfensohn also took a particularly active interest in extending the global impact and profile of the Institute, reaffirming and strengthening its reputation as an international center for scholarship.

Having served as Chairman of the Boards of Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Wolfensohn encouraged musical performance at the Institute, contributing to the establishment of the Artist-in-Residence program and regular concerts. Reflecting Wolfensohn’s long-standing commitment to the Institute and his dedication to the arts, the Institute named its lecture and performance hall, Wolfensohn Hall, in his honor in 1993.

Wolfensohn’s tenure as Chair saw considerable expansion in the Institute’s academic buildings: Simonyi Hall (1993) and Bloomberg Hall (2002), which respectively house the Institute’s Schools of Mathematics and Natural Sciences; as well as the opening in 2007 of the extension to Bloomberg Hall as the new home of the Simons Center for Systems Biology.

Wolfensohn was born in Sydney, Australia, in December 1933. An officer in the Royal Australian Air Force and a member of the 1956 Australian Olympic Fencing Team, Wolfensohn obtained his B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Sydney. He joined the Sydney law firm of Allen, Allen, & Hemsley and at a later date was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Australia. In 1957, he was accepted into the Harvard Graduate School of Business, where he earned his M.B.A.

About the Institute
The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world's foremost centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Located in Princeton, N.J., the IAS is dedicated to independent study across the sciences and humanities. Founded in 1930 with the motto "Truth and Beauty," the Institute is devoted to advancing the frontiers of knowledge without concern for immediate application. From founding IAS Professor Albert Einstein to the foremost thinkers of today, the IAS enables bold, nonconformist, field-leading research that provides long-term utility and new technologies, leading to innovation and enrichment of society in unexpected ways. 

Each year, the Institute welcomes more than 200 of the world's most promising researchers and scholars who are selected and mentored by a permanent Faculty, each of whom are preeminent leaders in their fields. Comprised of four Schools—Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Science—IAS has produced an astounding record of introducing new understanding and is responsible for undeniable progress across disciplines and generations, from the development of one of the first stored-program computers to the establishment of art history as a discipline in the United States. Among its present and past Faculty and Members are 33 Nobel Laureates, 42 of the 60 Fields Medalists, and 18 of the 20 Abel Prize Laureates, as well as many MacArthur Fellows and Wolf Prize winners.