Thomas Friedman spoke on the need to improve the education system in the United States.

     With pomp, ceremony and homage to higher education, Morton O. Schapiro was inaugurated on Oct. 9 as the 16th president of Northwestern University. Faculty, students, community members and representatives from more than 100 institutions of higher learning attended the ceremony, relocated earlier that day from Deering Meadow to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. Dr. Schapiro was selected last December to succeed Henry Bienen, who retired after 14 years as president of Northwestern.

     William Osborn, chair of Northwestern’s board of trustees, introduced Dr. Schapiro; and Carol Lee, professor of education and social policy and African-American studies, presented Dr. Schapiro with a reproduction of the 1851 University charter and the University seal. Dr. Bienen presented him with the chain of office.

     Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist for the New York Times, spoke on the role that education must play in helping this country survive the “Great Recession.”  Creative, sustainable thinking will be the tool to getting this country back, he said. That kind of thinking must be fostered by a revitalized public education system.

     In his speech, Dr. Schapiro said he had spent the past six weeks “listening rather than talking, and I’ll continue to do so for some time before I feel qualified to present my thoughts about the Northwestern of the future.”

     Regarding inclusion and tolerance, two buzzwords of the education community and other communities, Dr. Schapiro said, “We have a long way to go before our institutions can be considered truly inclusive. I’m not talking about tolerance. People don’t want to be tolerated; they want to be full members of the community. … The values of a university are revealed not in its words but in its actions.”

     Dr. Schapiro said that, although Northwestern has been termed an “elite” University, “this doesn’t mean we are ‘elitist’ as well. … In a world where myriad forces push society toward stratification, higher education must always provide opportunity.  Recent efforts aimed at opening our campus to students from a wider range of backgrounds must be encouraged. To do less is to fail in our public mission.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...