Harman Family Foundation donates $10 million to the USC Libraries
The Harman Family Foundation has made a gift of $10 million to help fulfill the extraordinary vision of Sidney Harman by endowing the center that will bear his name, the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study.
Harman served as chairman of the academy until his death in 2011 at the age of 92.
The USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study brings together students and distinguished faculty to study the interrelatedness among academic disciplines. The academy’s programs encourage critical and integrative thinking, the study of history’s great polymaths, and intellectual investigation that crosses the boundaries of traditional academic specialties. It is the only academy of its kind in the world.
“At the heart of USC’s academic mission is our commitment to promote not only the study of multiple disciplines, but also to integrate many branches of learning in an effort to expand knowledge and foster new discoveries,” said USC president C. L. Max Nikias. “Sidney Harman was a gifted polymath in his own right and, through this inspiring gift from USC trustee Jane Harman and the Harman Family Foundation, this remarkable academy is a testament to his hope that students employing a polymathic approach to education will also derive greater personal wisdom and sound judgment.”
Jane Harman, Sidney Harman’s wife, said, “Our family lived with a father and husband who inhaled life – and wanted his tombstone, if any, to say ‘still curious’. ” She is a former nine-term U.S. congresswoman and current director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“This academy, which he imagined and founded, will instill curiosity across the many disciplines at USC and just might revolutionize the way students learn. What a wonderful way to honor and remember Sidney,” added Jane Harman, who joined the USC Board of Trustees in December 2011.
The Harman Family Foundation’s gift endows the academy’s operations and its academic programming. To date, academy programs have examined business and poetry as connected practices and art forms, the relationship among space, time and feminism, and polymathic approaches to law and pharmacology.
Academy guests have included former National Endowment for the Arts chair and USC professor Dana Gioia; David Brooks of The New York Times; USC University Professors Warren Bennis, Geoffrey Cowan and Kevin Starr; and many other world-class scholars, thinkers and researchers.
“Sidney saw in our libraries the vital center of polymathic inquiry for the entire campus,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries. “Through the academy, more than 500 students have discovered polymathic perspectives on their intellectual aspirations. With this generous support from the Harman Family Foundation, we will proudly continue this work that is so unique to USC and that Sidney viewed as so essential to the future of academic inquiry.”
Before founding the Academy for Polymathic Study at USC, Sidney Harman served as the first Judge Widney Professor of Business and lectured at the USC Marshall School of Business, the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the USC School of Architecture. He also was the inaugural holder of the USC Isaias W. Hellman Chair of Polymathy. Both faculty positions were university-wide appointments.
A graduate of the City University of New York’s Baruch College, Harman founded the college’s Harman Writer in Residence program. He served on the boards of the Aspen Institute and The Carter Center and was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study will induct its 2011-12 class of fellows at a ceremony on May 10, preceding USC’s 2012 Commencement on May 11. The academy’s 2012-13 programming series will begin in August.