GSAS Awards Centennial Medals to Neil Harris and Robert Zimmer

GSAS Awards Centennial Medals to Neil Harris and Robert Zimmer

Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History

The following was published by Harvard University, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, on May 25, 2022. 

Cambridge, MA – At a ceremony on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) awarded the Centennial Medal to Neil Harris, the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor Emeritus, and Robert Zimmer, PhD ’75, University Chancellor; President Emeritus, both of the University of Chicago.

Museums and libraries, shopping malls, art and design, illustrated children’s literature, world’s fairs, and P. T. Barnum are all institutions woven into the fabric of American life—and all have had the depth of their cultural significance brought to light by Neil Harris. An expert on visual and material culture, and a founder of the academic discipline of cultural history, Harris has shone a light on those who may not have been considered significant creators of culture but who in fact were responsible for many important historical developments in American society.

A national champion for the core values of higher education, Robert Zimmer worked tirelessly to expand and elevate one of the world’s great research universities. Over decades of leadership at the University of Chicago, Zimmer has transformed an institution—and inspired widespread recommitment to the mission that all universities serve. Zimmer is also a prominent advocate for diversity of thought and challenging assumptions, and he spearheaded the creation of the Chicago Principles, a set of guidelines articulating these values subsequently adopted by more than 80 other colleges and universities.

“For Neil Harris’s pioneering work in shaping the field of cultural history and his expansive and influential scholarship exploring the wide range and rich significance of American culture, and for Robert Zimmer’s superlative leadership of one of the world’s finest universities and principled advocacy for the core mission and values of higher education on the national and global stage,” said GSAS Dean Emma Dench, “we are proud to award them the 2022 Centennial Medal.

In addition to Harris and Zimmer, two other GSAS alumni received the Centennial Medal: John Kamm, AM ’77, chairman and executive director, the Dui Hua Foundation; and Vicki Sato, PhD ’72, Professor of Management Practice Emerita, Harvard Business School, and member of the President Biden’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The Centennial Medal was first awarded in June 1989 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of GSAS. Each year, Harvard University through GSAS recognizes outstanding alumni whose contributions to knowledge, to their disciplines, to their colleagues, and to society have made a fundamental and lasting impact.

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May 25, 2022