ICAS Annual Liberty Award Reception & Dinner

December 4, 2009 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Kennedy Caucus Room
United States Senate
Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20510

Congratulatory Remarks

Professor and Dean Ronald Brown, ICAS Fellow

Good Evening.

I am pleased to introduce to you James Laney, who for sixteen years served as president of my alma mater, Emory University in Atlanta. Under President Laney's leadership, Emory grew from a regional university to a nationally and internationally known institution that in 2009 is ranked 17th by U.S. News and World Report in its annual listing of America's Best Colleges.

The international vision that President Laney brought to Emory was formed early. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he taught at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, where he had earlier served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Army. After his military service, Dr. Laney, who is an ordained Methodist minister, returned with his wife Berta to South Korea, where they served as missionaries.

He subsequently taught at Vanderbilt University and Harvard University before coming to Emory in 1969 to head the Candler School of Theology. In 1977, he was named president, leading the University until 1993.

In 1994, Dr. Laney was selected by President Bill Clinton to return to South Korea, as United States Ambassador - the first American ambassador who was able address the Korean people in their own language.

During his three years as ambassador, Dr. Laney broadened the American view to include North Korea. He consistently voiced the wisdom of engagement over isolation, and is credited with reshaping, rather than merely representing, Washington's policy toward Korea during the period.

Returning home to Atlanta in 1997 to serve as Emory's President Emeritus, Dr. Laney brought this philosophy of engagement to bear on the challenges facing the metropolitan area. With fellow Ambassador Andrew Young he established Faith And The City, an organization that brings together leaders from Atlanta's theological institutions in partnership with Emory's Center for Ethics. Faith And The City is dedicated to nurturing a spirit of common destiny and shared responsibility in the 20-county region that has grown rapidly around Atlanta.

Punctuated as it is with signal achievements, the highlight of Dr. Laney's resume remains the emergence of Emory University as a world-class academic institution. When he became president, Dr. Laney made it his goal to move Emory into the elite of American colleges and universities, a place in which new knowledge is developed and applied. To this end, the enhancement of Emory's graduate programs was given first priority. President Laney immediately undertook a program to strengthen and expand doctoral program offerings, attract talented teachers and innovative researchers, dramatically increase financial resources, and bring growing numbers of ambitious students to campus.

The wisdom of that decision becomes more evident with each passing year.

In the 2008-2009 academic year, Emory awarded more than 1,800 graduate and professional degrees. This fall the University enrolled almost 6,000 students pursuing graduate and professional study. These students pursue advanced degrees in the humanities, social sciences, biomedical and natural sciences, public health, nursing and business. They are instructed by a graduate faculty that now numbers 650.

Dr. Laney's legacy to Emory is one of intellectual vibrancy. The University is a leader in research that does more than expand the mind, it has an impact far beyond academic circles. For example, Emory laboratories are the birthplace of Emtriva and 3TC, two lifesaving drugs commonly used in HIV treatment. Meaningful work such as this is supported by research funding that in fiscal 2009 totaled $484 million. Emory's endowment is similarly robust, totaling $4.5 billion.

Emory students compete successfully for prestigious academic prizes, such as Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, Goldwater, Rockefeller and Mellon scholarships and National Science Foundation fellowships. Distinguished scholars and experts from around the world are drawn to Emory, including former President Jimmy Carter, Booker Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

All of these accomplishments have grown from the vision of James Laney, who saw the potential in a regional southern university and provided the direction and acquired the resources to make it real. This year, Emory's graduate school was renamed for the man who used graduate education as the key to unlock the future of the University. On the occasion of its 90th anniversary, the school was rechristened the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies in formal recognition of President Laney's contribution to Emory University. It is a pleasure to celebrate his lifetime of achievement with him tonight.

May I introduce to you Emory University President Emeritus James Laney.

This page last updated 1/09/2010 jdb

ICAS Fellow
Speakers &