2011 University Lecture Introduction

Remarks by Boston University Provost Jean Morrison
2011 University Lecture Introduction
October 12, 2011
Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Avenue

Good evening. I am Jean Morrison, and as Provost and Chief Academic Officer for Boston University, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the 2011 University Lecture.

Since 1950, the University Lecture has offered members of the BU community and the general public an opportunity to hear from distinguished faculty about the outstanding and often groundbreaking research and scholarship in which they are actively engaged.

It is a forum that is open to all – students, faculty and staff at the University, as well as our neighbors in the Greater Boston area… and one that is designed to spark consideration and discussion of issues critical to our understanding of the world around us.

Over the decades, these lectures have touched on topics as relevant as they are timeless to our evolving academic landscape and to the real-world environments our scholars and researchers impact each day.

From the cerebral circuitry behind language acquisition and the Constitutional and political consequences of Presidential disability… to the daily discoveries of synthetic biology and the atmospheres of distant planets… the University Lectures have over the years given us an unsurpassed window into scientific and humanistic exploration.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a tradition that encompasses or so brilliantly highlights the breadth and scope of scholarship here at Boston University than the University Lecture.

By doing so each year, these lectures have offered that rare interdisciplinary opportunity for students, faculty and neighbors of all fields to come together and to learn from a top expert about an area of study often entirely different from our own.

All go to the very heart of what defines and distinguishes that unique institution known as the American research university: the creation of fundamentally important knowledge and the support of practical real-world discoveries that improve our way of life.

The great American poet and professor Mark Van Doren would famously say that the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

Tonight’s University Lecturer, Kathryn Bard, has been doing just that for nearly a quarter century here at BU, vividly bringing the past to life for her students as a distinguished professor of Archeology.

Professor Bard, over the course of her career, has been nothing short of a Boston-based Indiana Jones, unearthing the origin and artifacts of ancient civilizations… providing their linkage and relevance to modern life… and supplying both the academic rigor and sense of adventure to inspire dozens of aspiring archeologists each year.

Professor Bard has been an explorer for as long as she can remember. Well before she began her career in archeology, Professor Bard fondly remembers her first major trek, traveling overland from Cairo to Capetown and hiking the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. She hasn’t stopped since.

An accomplished artist, Professor Bard studied sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art in London and obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Fine Art at Yale before teaching sculpture and drawing at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington.

Her passion and her calling, however, would eventually lead her away from the artist’s studio and into the sands of far away civilizations as an excavator and student of history. She received a Master’s in Near Eastern Studies and a doctorate from the University of Toronto before arriving here at BU in 1988.

Since then, she has published seven books and more than 80 articles, reviews and reports about everything from the late prehistory of Egypt and the origins of complex societies and early states in northeast Africa… to the Red Sea trading network in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

She is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received the Chairman’s Award for Exploration of the National Geographic Society, which recognizes excellence in providing new knowledge of the world.

Professor Bard has helped lead excavations at Aksum, the capital of an early African civilization in northern Ethiopia… and at the site of Wadi Gawasis on the Red Sea coast of Egypt.

There, she uncovered timbers and artifacts from the world’s oldest-known seagoing ships – vessels that carried Egyptian pharaohs to the ancient kingdom of Punt nearly 4,000 years ago.

It is the fascinating story of this kingdom, located in modern day Sudan and Eritrea, and its almost mythical status in the ancient world that Professor Bard will be sharing with us tonight.

We are delighted to count her as a member of the BU academic community, to have her here this evening and to see that her proud father, Robert, has made the journey all the way from Arizona to view her lecture. As I suspect we’ll all attest, it was well worth the trip. It is now my pleasure to present our 2011 University Lecturer, Professor Kathryn Bard.