Vital Speeches, Exalted Company
President Durden honored in magazine highlighting speeches by groundbreaking thought leaders
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
What does Dickinson’s president have in common with Barack
Obama, Hillary Clinton, David Cameron, Chris Christie, Ban Ki-Moon and Bobby
Jindal? All are honored in the March 2013 issue of Vital Speeches, a publication that highlights some of the most
thought-provoking and important public addresses of our time.
President William G. Durden ’71’s contribution, “Just Do Science,”
explains the role of the liberal-arts college in undergraduate science education
and positions Dickinson as a leader in that realm. It keeps company in print with the U.S.
president’s 2013 inaugural address; a foreign-policy analysis by the United
Nations secretary general; the British prime minister’s thoughts on U.K.
membership in the European Union; the secretary of state’s view on Benghazi;
the middle class, interpreted by the CEO of the AARP; and a post-Katrina reflection
by the governor of Louisiana, among other works.
“Dickinson is right in there with some substantive organizations
of influence and prestige,” notes Durden. “I am delighted that the speech is
honored in this demonstrative way and included with such exalted company.”
Durden delivered the speech as keynote speaker at the 2013 Gateway Sciences
Initiative Symposium, a Jan. 17 event focused on improving science
education at Johns Hopkins University. In it, he stressed that
Dickinson’s interdisciplinary, hands-on and research-focused approach to the
sciences—combined with the liberal-arts emphasis on written skills—has produced
“an exceptionally dynamic undergraduate science program” that has yielded
continued alumni engagement in science.
To be sure, “Just Do Science” is only one of many speeches
and publications Durden has produced during his 14 years as president of
his alma mater. But Durden, who will retire from that post this summer, says
that the message it carries—and the timing of its publication—hold special
“I wrote this speech to offer an analysis of the liberal-arts
approach to the sciences to the Johns Hopkins audience of administrators and
science faculty,” he says, “ but I also wanted to convey the singular quality
of science education at Dickinson. Before I left the college, I wanted to make
sure that this distinction was articulated to its fullest to the general public
and that what we do so well was given a name.”