Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Missionary for the Liberal Arts

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 29th, 2014


From an early age, Leon Botstein’s life was shaped by two powerful forces: fascism and education. His parents fled Nazi persecution in Poland and, after World War II, settled in the United States. Mr. Botstein’s mother and father eventually joined the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, leaving an indelible impression on their young son. "My family owes everything to the dynamism of American universities," he says.
Today, Mr. Botstein is president of Bard College, and his past has influenced the liberal-arts institution’s singular approach to international engagement.
Mr. Botstein is quick to say that the college’s overseas projects are very much an institutional effort. But under his leadership, Bard, whose bucolic campus hugs the Hudson River some 90 miles north of New York City, has championed liberal education in countries in the midst of societal shifts, like post-apartheid South Africa. In parts of the world that make headlines for their strife and volatility, such as Russia and the Palestinian West Bank, Bard has helped found new colleges and programs rooted in the liberal arts.

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