President Alfred H. Bloom, you have served Swarthmore College and its community with distinction for 36 years, as both professor and as president. Your leadership has been extraordinary; your imprint deep and indelible.
As president, you have strengthened significantly Swarthmore's exceptional academic program through enrichment of the curriculum and the revitalization of the Honors Program, a hallmark of the College's intellectual excellence. Under your leadership, a Swarthmore education has become accessible to the full range of society — and the diversity of our community and educational offerings has expanded to reflect the richness of the wider world. You oversaw improvements to our physical plant, as well, through campus renovations, sustainability initiatives, and spectacular examples of green architecture, including our state-of-the-art, LEED-certified Science Center and two new residence halls. Throughout, you have worked tirelessly to inspire both internal and external constituencies to lend their support to the future of the College, building an endowment that is sufficient to ensure Swarthmore's continuing distinctive leadership in undergraduate liberal arts education, even during difficult economic times such as these.
Over the years, your words and deeds have fostered in all of us — students, alumni, faculty, staff, and Board members alike — the desire to explore fully the life of the mind, to listen well and with genuine respect, to display sensitive and complex ethical judgment, to cross differences to learn from others and build common ground, and to improve the broader conditions of humanity.
A member of Swarthmore's faculty in psychology and linguistics from 1974 to 1986, you also served during that time as associate provost, director of the Linguistics Program, coordinator of a comprehensive review and restructuring of the academic program, and coordinator of Asian Studies. Your return to Swarthmore as president in 1991 followed a five-year tenure at Pitzer College, where you served as dean of faculty, vice president for academic affairs, and, later, executive vice president.
As a scholar, your research brings together psychology and linguistics, particularly with respect to how they help us to understand cross-cultural continuities and differences in thought and moral understanding. You have conducted extensive research in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and France. You are fluent in French, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese and the author of two seminal books in your field, as well as numerous articles.
You were born in New York City in 1946. You graduated with a B.A. from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in Romance languages and European civilization in 1967 and, for the next two years, studied in France on a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. In 1974, you received a Ph.D. in psychology and social relations from Harvard University. More recently, in 2007, you were awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of Richmond.
In 1971 you married Peggi Hennigan, who proved to be an exceptional partner in every facet of your career and life, from your pursuit of excellence in scholarship and pedagogy to your peripatetic exploration of countries, cultures, and cuisines throughout the world. We thank you for bringing Peggi to Swarthmore, where her warmth, wit, and hospitality remain unrivaled.
On May 2nd, 1992, you were inaugurated as the 13th President of Swarthmore College. Board member Sam Hayes '57, chair of the search committee, stood at this lectern to introduce you to our community. In his introduction, Sam enumerated the characteristics the Board of Managers had identified as essential to the College's new leader. The new president had to be a distinguished scholar who would provide the kind of intellectual leadership with which Swarthmore has always been associated... A skilled administrator who would bring together all parts of the College community into a cohesive team able to move the College forward... And the new president would have to be someone who reveled in diversity and would expand and champion diversity on our campus.
We were also looking for, and I quote Sam here, "an unashamed dreamer, someone who thought the unthinkable and who looked to see which parts of that unthinkable dream might, in fact, be implemented..."
That day, in your inaugural address, you outlined your dream, challenging Swarthmore — indeed, challenging every undergraduate institution in this country — to better prepare students to "address the needs of a society and a world in need." Students, you said, must be more than well trained, analytically astute, creative in their disciplines, and broadly educated. They must also possess ethical intelligence. Ethical intelligence, you explained, requires a vertical shift from unexamined assumptions about what is right and wrong to a consciously chosen set of values, and, also, a horizontal shift, through which we look beyond our own cultural worlds to recognize human commonality.
Since that day in May so many years ago, when the phrase "ethical intelligence" first entered the lexicon of this campus community, its embrace and practice have come to be regarded as an essential element of a Swarthmore education.
President Bloom, you are an unashamed dreamer, yes, with an exceptional vision of what undergraduate education should and — as you have demonstrated here at Swarthmore — can be. Your vision has bolstered the greatness of Swarthmore College in every area, amplified and enhanced what it stands for, and helped clarify what the world may expect of it and its students.
Of all you will leave behind at Swarthmore, the most valuable element of your legacy may well be our community's demonstrated collective belief that placing intellectual life at the service of the common good, rather than compromising its quality, infuses that life with enhanced significance, and that placing higher education at the service of the common good only directs higher education more fully toward what our societies and world must expect from it.
On behalf of the entire Swarthmore College community, I offer our deepest, most humble thanks for your service to the College and our sincere best wishes for you in your new role as Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. We know you will be wildly successful in that endeavor, confident, as we are, in the knowledge that the new liberal arts college and research university you will build and lead will be the beneficiaries of a visionary leader of boundless energy and infinite resourcefulness... A leader of unimpeachable integrity and exceptional intellect... A leader who inspires trust and confidence... A leader with the courage to pursue serious goals and the wisdom to empower others to work together to reach those goals... A leader who ably shepherds dreams into the realm of reality.
Board Chair Barbara W. Mather '65:
Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.