AHI director Anne Neal also serves as President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, “a nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization committed to academic freedom, excellence and accountability at America’s colleges and universities.” Each year ACTA organizes a major conference–The Athena Roundtable–around a particular theme. This year’s roundtable at the New-York Historical Society focused on “The Campaign for the American Mind.”
The conference began on Thursday afternoon, October 16, with AHI board member General Josiah Bunting III leading a tour of the Grant-Lee Exhibit at the NYHS. Andrew Ferguson, a senior editior at The Weekly Standard, regaled Thurday night’s dinner audience with a battery of amusing stories about the research that went into his Land of Lincoln: Adventure’s in Abe’s America (Grove Press, 2008). AHI board members J. Hunter Brown, Stephen Balch, and Carl Menges participated in the Friday morning and afternoon sessions as did AHI founders James Bradfield and Robert Paquette. Distinguished participants included Benno Schmidt, John Silber, Senator Hank Brown, Herbert London, and Roger Rosenblatt AHI friends Barry Shain, Jim Piereson, and Mike Andrews were also in attendance. Grade inflation, declining standards, the open curriculum, trustee accountability and transparency, the Ward Churchill affair, and faculty activism numbered among the issues discussed. Bradfield and Paquette integrated into the discussion information from their own experience at Hamilton College to drive home the point about an academy in crisis.
On Friday evening, the Honorable Jose Cabranes, Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, introduced Donald Kagan, Professor of History and Classics at Yale University. Professor Kagan received the Philip Merrill Award, which annually honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions “to the advancement of liberal arts education, core curricula and the teaching of Western civilization and American history. ” Previous winners include AHI academic advisors Harvey Mansfield and Robert George. Congratulations to Professor Kagan, a most worthy recipient of this distinguished award.
Special thanks go to Liz and Joe Kaming who hosted on Saturday a wonderful post-conference brunch in their Manhattan home, where conference attendants continued their discussions. Kudos to Anne Neal and her staff for another memorable event.