Harvard President Lawrence Bacow received on Monday an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa (UH) in recognition of his "global leadership in higher education, redefining the critical role universities play in developing and sustaining communities, and his advocacy for the importance of diversity within education."
President Bacow received the honor during a virtual ceremony organized by the university. In receiving his doctorate, he praised the “start-up nation” for its ability to draw talent from around the world through the opportunities that exist within the country.
“We live in a world right now where the only truly scarce capital is human capital,” said Bacow. “Israel has demonstrated to the world that a country or a region doesn't need to be rich in natural resources in order to be a wealthy country. Israel does it by creating, aggregating, and acting as a magnet for human capital."
"It draws people to Israel from around the world who come to Israel's universities to study, and people who are attracted to Israel by the opportunity that exists," he added.
“Harvard and the University of Haifa, in their tireless pursuits that they inspire and enable, have never been more important for society than they are now,” Bacow said, referring to the collaboration between the University of Haifa and Harvard in several areas, including marine sciences, archaeology, and environmental studies.
The two universities are currently conducting a joint study on the etiology of large sea mammals. According to UH, it is "considered the world’s most ambitious research initiative on that topic."
Bacow, after receiving the honor, delivered an address that covered how higher education is responding to defining challenges during the pandemic era by delivering unprecedented value to society.
“Colleges and universities across the United States have cut 650,000 jobs in the last year, about 1 in 10 jobs in the entire sector. Institutions continue to struggle with fulfilling their mission in the face of upheaval and uncertainty. Despite it all, I remain optimistic because there is one aspect of the research university that has become clearer to me over the past year than it has ever been, and that is, where else has failure been embraced and resilience valued so highly?” President Bacow said.
The “innately curious” nature of university faculty is a key component of paving the way toward a brighter future, he said.
“[Faculty] have big ideas, big hypothesis they seek to test,” said Bacow. “Rarely do things work the first time. Experiments have to be redone, theories revised and reevaluated. The work of discovery and innovation requires persistence, dedication, curiosity, and creativity. Society is, in the end, far better off for it.”
“People around the world at institutions like ours are being given a chance to follow their curiosity, to satisfy the deep urge to know and to understand, to seek, and to find," said Bacow, recounting how research conducted at Harvard decades ago paved the way for the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson as well as Waze, the Israeli-founded navigation app that was eventually acquired by Google. "The partnerships that exist between our two institutions have expanded the frontiers of knowledge,” President Bacow said, adding, that “in challenging times, the research university inspires action and illuminates a way forward for all of us.”
Bacow earned his S.B. in economics from MIT, later to go on to get his J.D., M.P.P. and Ph.D. from Harvard Law School and Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He served as a faculty member at MIT for 24 years, and as its chancellor for four, before being elected as president of Tufts University, a role which he held for 10 years. In 2010, he was appointed by former US president Barack Obama to the board of advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
In 2018, seven years after becoming a part of the Harvard board, he was named the 29th president of the university.
“Throughout his career, President Bacow has advocated for the enduring values of colleges as enablers of the American dream,” said University of Haifa President Prof. Ron Robin. “It is a great privilege to confer upon him an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Haifa.”
"The honor for President Bacow comes as both Harvard and University of Haifa prioritize the issue of social mobility," the university explained.