Distributed May 28, 2001
For Immediate Release
News Service Contact: Tracie Sweeney

Honors for the interim president

Faculty presents highest honor to Interim President Sheila E. Blumstein

During Commencement ceremonies May 28, Interim President Sheila E. Blumstein, the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, received the highest honor Brown’s faculty can bestow – the Rosenberger Medal – as well as an honorary Doctor of Science degree and an endowed undergraduate scholarship fund named in her honor. A portrait of Blumstein, which will hang in Sayles Hall, was unveiled Friday evening, May 25.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The faculty of Brown University presented the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal – the highest honor it can bestow – to Interim President Sheila E. Blumstein, the Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences. Blumstein, who was named interim president Feb. 9, 2000, will serve until July 1, when Ruth J. Simmons begins her duties as Brown’s 18th president.

Presentation of the Rosenberger Medal was made early Monday afternoon, May 28, 2001, while Blumstein was presiding over the University’s 233rd Commencement exercises on The College Green. It occurred shortly after she had been awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the Corporation of Brown University, Brown’s governing body of fellows and trustees. Brown Chancellor Stephen Robert also announced that the Corporation had established the Sheila Blumstein Scholarship, endowed with more than $1 million in gifts, which will support four undergraduate students every year.

Those Commencement-Day honors followed another special presentation. On Friday, May 25, a portrait of Blumstein painted by Fritz Drury, associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and head of its illustration department, was unveiled during a dinner of the Brown Corporation. The portrait will hang in Sayles Hall with three dozen portraits of presidents, chancellors and other distinguished Brunonians.

Editors: A digital image of the portrait is available through the News Service.

The Rosenberger Medal

The Rosenberger Medal is awarded through the Susan Colver Rosenberger Fund, established by Jesse L. Rosenberger in 1919 as a memorial to his wife, the daughter of Charles K. Colver, Class of 1842. His gift provided that from time to time a medal should be awarded for what was termed “specially notable or beneficial achievement.” The award is made by the faculty of Brown University through its Rosenberger Medal of Honor Committee.

Blumstein is the second woman to receive the award and became its 22nd recipient. Previous recipients include such notable Brunonians as Charles Evans Hughes, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Mary Emma Woolley, Theodore Francis Green, Alexander Meiklejohn, Thomas J. Watson Jr., Henry M. Wriston, Howard R. Swearer and Vartan Gregorian.

Doctor of Science (Sc.D.)

Blumstein, an internationally recognized specialist in the human production and understanding of language and its neural bases, was among nine recipients of honorary degrees during Brown’s Commencement ceremony. She received an honorary Doctor of Science. Her citation read, in part:

Esteemed citizen of Brown, honored member of the academy, respected scholar and colleague, beloved friend: you have, time and again, answered the call to service from this great University. In so doing, you have contributed beyond measure to its greatness.

Your arrival on College Hill as an assistant professor came one year after the adoption of the New Curriculum. No one could have foretold the role you would play in the evolution of that curriculum and your tremendous influence over Brown’s development as an internationally renowned university. Academic advising, undergraduate research, ethnic studies, teaching excellence, foreign language study, opportunities for women in science and engineering – these are only a few of the causes you have successfully championed. Thanks to your dedication, your spirit, and your well-known tenacity, Brown today is a much stronger institution than it was when you joined the faculty in 1970.

The titles you have held speak volumes to the breadth of your devotion to Brown: Albert D. Mead Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, department chair, dean of the College, provost, and president. Few – if any – in our history have served so often, so unselfishly, and so well.

Your legacy, however, extends far beyond the number of offices you have occupied in University Hall and Metcalf Research Laboratory. You have always led by example, showing us the meaning of grace under pressure, of compassion, of integrity, and of honor. You are genuine – an original – and ever true to your values and your principles. Above all, you have lived a professional and personal life of usefulness and reputation. We are grateful beyond words that you have done so at Brown University.

Blumstein, a 1965 graduate (Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Sigma Iota, magna cum laude) of the University of Rochester, earned her Ph.D. in linguistics at Harvard University in 1970. That year, she came to Brown as assistant professor of linguistics. She was promoted to associate professor in 1976 and became a full professor in 1981. She chaired the Department of Linguistics from 1978 to 1981 and the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from 1986 to 1987, when she was named dean of the College. Although she announced her retirement as dean in November 1993, Blumstein continued to serve in that capacity until a successor was named in May 1995.

Late in 1997, Blumstein was asked to serve in the senior academic administration again, this time as interim provost. She agreed and served from Jan. 6, 1998, through the end of the academic year, when she returned to full-time teaching and research. Her work was again put on hold when she answered the call to serve as interim president.

The Blumstein Scholarship

The Sheila Blumstein Scholarship, endowed with more than $1 million in gifts, was established by the Corporation at its Commencement Weekend meeting on Saturday, May 26. That endowment will support four Sheila Blumstein scholars, one from each undergraduate class. “I am delighted that Brown will count among its students countless Sheila Blumstein Scholars in the years and decades to come,” Chancellor Robert said as he addressed the Commencement assembly. “It is but a small measure of our gratitude and appreciation for everything she has done for undergraduate education and the entire University.” As dean of the College from 1987 to 1995, Blumstein was the chief academic officer for undergraduates.

Portrait by Fritz Drury

BlumsteinA portrait of Blumstein painted by Fritz Drury, assistant professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and chairman of its department of illustration, was unveiled at a May 25 dinner of the Brown Corporation.

Blumstein selected Drury to be the artist. The portrait was painted from life: Drury worked in a studio on the third floor of the President’s House at 55 Power St., and sittings were scheduled throughout the winter.

Blumstein’s portrait will hang in Sayles Hall next to Everett Raymond Kinstler’s 1994 painting of Howard R. Swearer, Brown’s 15th president. A portrait of Henry Dexter Sharpe, a former University chancellor and trustee, had hung in that spot until recently, when the University and the Sharpe family moved it to the Corporation Room in University Hall, where trustees and fellows have met for more than two centuries and where Sharpe had presided as chancellor.