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New Professorship in the School of Social Science Established in Honor of James D. Wolfensohn

New Professorship in the School of Social Science Established in Honor of James D. Wolfensohn
September 30, 2008
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The Institute for Advanced Study has established a Professorship in its School of Social Science in honor of James D. Wolfensohn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1986 to 2007.  The James D. Wolfensohn Professorship in Social Science was funded by donations from Institute Trustees and Faculty as well as Mr. Wolfensohn's colleagues and friends to acknowledge his 21 years of distinguished service to the institution.  More than $5 million was raised to create the Professorship, which is intended to be filled by a scholar who analyzes the cultures of non-Western countries ethnographically, and whose research is aimed at studying these local and national cultures to gain an understanding of how they work in terms of their histories and their place in international and global contexts. 

A new Membership in the School, to be associated with this Professorship, has been created by a generous donation from the Wolfensohn family.  The Wolfensohn Family Membership is an expression of Mr. Wolfensohn's and his family's commitment to the Institute and its mission, and it reflects their belief in the importance and future of local cultures and their desire to strengthen scholarship in the field.

"The whole Institute community is delighted that, through the generosity of many friends and admirers of Jim Wolfensohn, we have been able to endow this Professorship," stated Peter Goddard, Director of the Institute.  "It will both support the study of cultures in the developing world, to which Jim has contributed so much, and also commemorate his extraordinary achievements as Chairman of our Board of Trustees.  The Wolfensohn Family Membership provides further testimony to the commitment of Jim and Elaine and their family to the mission of the Institute and to the study and preservation of local cultures."

Danielle Allen, UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science noted, "The Wolfensohn Chair and Membership will anchor fundamental lines of inquiry in the social sciences, including questions related to the culture and politics of the developing world, utilizing the tools and methods of ethnography. The work of the Wolfensohn Professor and Wolfensohn Family Member will provide opportunities for all Members of the School of Social Science to expand their capacities at comparative work as well as ensure that quantitative methods of analysis are always complemented with qualitative and interpretive approaches. This gift will foster the richest and most probing analyses possible of social experience. The School is deeply grateful for this foundational support."

"I am deeply moved by the action of the Institute community and our friends in making possible the naming of a Chair for me in the School of Social Science," commented Mr. Wolfensohn, Chairman Emeritus. "It is gratifying that this Professorship will be devoted to issues relating to non-Western cultures, thus linking my work at the World Bank with my commitment to the Institute as a great center for learning and research."

Mr. Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank and current Chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C., has been a Trustee of the Institute since 1979 and served as Chairman of the Board from 1986 to 2007.  While Chairman, Mr. Wolfensohn oversaw the Institute's successful endowment of six Professorships across the four Schools, including the Albert O. Hirschman Professorship in the School of Social Science, currently held by economist Eric S. Maskin, and the George F. Kennan Professorship in the School of Historical Studies, currently held by political philosopher Avishai Margalit. With former Institute Director (1991-2003) and current School of Mathematics Professor Phillip Griffiths, he worked to initiate the Millennium Science Initiative, a program that aims to create and nurture world-class science and scientific talent in the developing world.  

As Board Chairman, Mr. Wolfensohn helped steward the growth of the Institute's endowment, which more than quadrupled during his tenure.  Mr. Wolfensohn, together with his wife Elaine, has been an energetic supporter of the Institute's IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute (PCMI), and has also led building projects such as Simonyi Hall (1993) and Bloomberg Hall (2002), which respectively house the Institute's Schools of Mathematics and Natural Sciences.  The Institute's lecture and performance hall, Wolfensohn Hall, was dedicated in 1993 in honor of Mr. Wolfensohn and is a reflection of both his long-standing commitment to the Institute and his own personal love of music. 

About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 40 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.