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Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor honored by Carnegie Corporation with national Academic Leadership Award, $500,000 grant

June 17, 2008

Kevin C. Quinn
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Kevin C. Quinn

Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor has been named one of two recipients--along with Robert J. Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley--of the 2008 Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, which celebrates outstanding individuals whose uncompromising commitment to academic excellence and bold, visionary leadership are establishing new standards for U.S. higher education. The award announcement was made today by Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

"With intellectual ferocity, creativity and sheer will, Robert Birgeneau and Nancy Cantor have created for their students an even deeper, more engaging academic experience aimed not just at sustaining America's world-class system of higher education, but transforming it to equip students for success in a global knowledge economy," Gregorian stated in announcing the award. "Recognizing that higher education is for many families the gateway to the American Dream--the principal means of achieving social mobility--Birgeneau and Cantor have each implemented programs in their respective communities to improve college readiness."

The award recognizes leaders of institutions of higher education who have an abiding commitment to liberal arts and who have initiated and supported curricular innovations, including development of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs that aim to bridge the gulf between the theoretical and the practical. In addition, the award honors leadership that actively supports K-12 school reform, strengthens teacher education, and emphasizes community outreach.

SU and UC-Berkeley will each receive a grant of $500,000 "to be used for the express purpose, and at the discretion of the respective winners to fund work that contributes to each one's academic priorities."

"This award is simply breathtaking in its significance and generosity, and I gratefully accept it on behalf of the entire Syracuse University community," Cantor says. "I take it to reflect the uncanny convergence of forces that we are experiencing at SU, as we leverage the historical and contemporary strengths of both our institution and our community, exploring together with our many partners what it means for a university to be a public good in a diverse, democratic society. My profound thanks go to the Carnegie Corporation for the opportunity that this award represents to deepen and broaden that exploration. Also, I am gratified to receive this award at the same time Bob Birgeneau is being honored, as I greatly admire his accomplishments at Berkeley and the academic and civic values that propel them."

In making the award, the Carnegie Corporation recognized Cantor for elevating SU's national reputation "through her ambitious Scholarship in Action campaign to build upon the school's scholarly distinction; provide access and support to the best students from all socio-economic and cultural spheres; and better engage with the surrounding community, the nation and the world."

The Carnegie Corporation also praised Cantor for:

  • playing "a key role in improving relations with the surrounding community and spearheading badly needed economic development in Central New York";
  • for her commitment to diversity in higher education as illustrated by her involvement, while at the University of Michigan, in the defense of affirmative action in the cases Gutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger;
  • for her role in helping to found Imagining America, an initiative now hosted by SU that involves a consortium of 80 colleges and universities whose mission is to strengthen the public role and democratic purposes of the humanities, arts and design; and
  • for her leadership role in the Partnership for Better Education, an alliance of the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), Syracuse University, Le Moyne College, Onondaga Community College, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and SUNY Upstate Medical University that assists SCSD high school students to graduate and successfully pursue higher education by providing new opportunities for quality instruction in the arts, literacy, science and technology, engineering and math.

The annual Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, established in 2005, was initially awarded every two years. Previous winners are Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University (2005); Henry S. Bienen, president of Northwestern University (2005); Don Randel, former president of the University of Chicago (2005); and Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York (2007).

The Academic Leadership Award is not simply an award; it is also an investment in leadership by the Carnegie Corporation and builds on the foundation's long tradition of developing and recognizing leadership in higher education. The selection process is initiated by the corporation and does not depend on external nominators or recommendations. Honorees are reviewed and approved by a committee of the corporation's board of trustees.

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