Amy Gutmann

Amy Gutmann, provost and the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, leaves Princeton after 28 years to become the president of the University of Pennsylvania. An extraordinary record of excellence in teaching, scholarship, and institutional service has made her one of the University’s most valued citizens and one of America’s preeminent scholars and educators.

Amy earned her B.A. magna cum laude in 1971 from Radcliffe College, an M.Sc. in political science in 1972 from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in government in 1976 from Harvard University. She came to Princeton in 1976 directly after receiving her doctorate, and was promoted to associate professor in 1981 and professor in 1987.  She held the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship from 1987 to 1990, and became the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor in 1990. She served as Princeton’s dean of the faculty from 1995 to 1997 and as academic adviser to the president from 1997 to 1998. She has been provost since July 2001.

Amy is one of the world’s leading scholars in both democratic political theory and the ethics of public life. There is hardly a public moral controversy that she has not illumined, or a major problem in contemporary political theory that she has failed to address and reshape. Amy’s scholarship is marked by clarity and rigor as well as relevance: in everything she writes, moral engagement is held to the highest intellectual standards.

Her books include Liberal Equality (1980), and Ethics and Politics: Cases and Comments (originally published in 1984; the fourth edition forthcoming in 2004), which she co-authored and co-edited with Dennis Thompson. The latter volume brings ethics to bear on central dilemmas faced by public officials and citizens, and it has helped shape the field of practical and professional ethics. It grew out of the course Amy taught with Thompson, POL 308/WWS 301 Ethics and Public Policy, a course remembered by many students as a highlight of their Princeton education.

Democratic Education (1987; new edition with preface and epilogue, 1999), has been praised as the most important work on democracy and education since John Dewey’s; it stimulated renewed interest in education among political theorists and philosophers. Democracy and Disagreement (1996), also co-authored with Dennis Thompson, is widely regarded as the most important articulation and defense of a deliberative democratic theory. Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race (1996), co-authored by K. Anthony Appiah, is a powerfully argued defense of color-conscious public policy as a way of responding to the enduring legacies of racial injustice. Amy has, in addition, published more than 100 articles, many of which have been very influential. (Her well-known critique of “communitarian” political theory contains the memorable and oft-quoted observation that communitarians “want us to live in Salem, but not to believe in witches.”)

In addition, she inaugurated the University Center for Human Values publication series at Princeton University Press with Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition (title essay by Charles Taylor; 1992; expanded paperback edition in 1994), and has followed up with A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law (title essay by Antonin Scalia; 1997), Work and Welfare (title essay by Robert Solow, 1998), Freedom of Association (1999), The Lives of Animals (title essay by J. M. Coetzee, 1999), Goodness and Advice (title essay by Judith Jarvis Thomson, 2001); Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry (title essay by Michael Ignatieff, 2001), among other edited volumes. Many of these books have been translated into several languages.

Time spent in Nassau Hall has done little to slow Amy’s prodigious outpouring of public ethical argument. She recently published Identity in Democracy (2003), which argues that identity groups are inescapable in democratic politics, and urges that we distinguish between those that promote and those that impede justice. In press is another collection of essays, with Dennis Thompson, on deliberative democracy, a fourth edition of their ethics casebook, and no doubt a wealth of other essays.

Anyone who has participated in a class, seminar, or meeting with Amy knows her energy, warm personality, and capacity for decisiveness. She is an articulate and forceful advocate. The Department of Politics, the University Center for Human Values, and the University as a whole have been well-served by her energy, good judgement, her forthrightness, and her willingness to take on tough problems. Her tenure as dean of faculty and as provost has been a period of great accomplishment. Perhaps most notable has been her commitment to improving both the quality and the diversity of Princeton’s outstanding faculty.

Yet another enduring legacy is Amy’s leadership role in establishing the University Center for Human Values, as multidisciplinary center that supports undergraduate and graduate teaching, a visiting fellows program, a publication series, and numerous public discussions centered on issue of ethics. Housed in Louis Marx Hall and 5 Ivy Lane, the University Center is now home to five faculty colleagues with joint appointments in four different departments. Widely considered the premier institution of its kind, the university center serves as a model to the burgeoning array of ethics programs at colleges and universities around the world.

Amy’s accomplishments have been recognized at Princeton and far beyond. She is president of the American Society of Political and Legal Philosophy (2001-2004), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a W.E.B. DuBois Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and a fellow of the National Academy of Education. She has lectured widely in South Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. In 1994-95, she delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford University.

In 2003 Provost Gutmann was awarded the Centennial Medal by Harvard University for “graduate alumni who have made exceptional contributions to society.” In 2000 she won the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award at Princeton. She also has received the Bertram Mott Award “in recognition of outstanding achievement toward advancing the goals of higher education”; the Ralph J. Bunche Award “for the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism”; the North American Society for Social Philosophy Book Award; and the Gustavus Myers Human Rights Award for the “outstanding book on the subject of human rights in North America.”

Princeton University is a far better place for Amy’s nearly 30 years of distinguished service. She leaves as one of the University’s most lustrous citizens; her transition to emeritus status is anything but a retirement. Her many friends and colleagues—grateful that this new challenge takes Amy no further than our nearest Ivy League neighbor—hope that she will always regard Princeton University as her home.