Campus & Community

GSAS Medal awarded to biologist, physicist, social scientist, art expert

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A biologist who has led groundbreaking research efforts on proteins, an art expert who leads one of the country’s foremost museums, an astrophysicist whose theories guide the study of galaxies and planets, and a social sciences professor who has shaped the course of East Asian studies received the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Centennial Medal on Wednesday (June 4) at the Harvard Faculty Club.

This year’s recipients are Susan Lindquist Ph.D. ’77, physics; Earl Powell III Ph.D. ’74, fine arts; Frank Shu Ph.D. ’68, astronomy; and Ezra Vogel Ph.D. ’58, sociology.

The medal was founded in 1989 to mark the centennial of the GSAS. It is given annually to alumni/ae who, building upon their graduate studies, have made significant contributions to society. Past recipients include Margaret Atwood, Roald Hoffmann, and E.O. Wilson.

Susan Lindquist

Susan Lindquist is professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where she served as director from 2001 to 2004. Lindquist taught at the University of Chicago from 1978 to 2001 as a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and as the Albert D. Lasker Professor of Medical Sciences (1999 to 2001).

Lindquist’s pioneering work in the field of biological science has focused on proteins, with applications and importance for a range of fields including evolution, human disease, and nanotechnology. In addition to providing definitive evidence for protein-only inheritance and discovering a potential mechanism for rapid bursts of evolution, Lindquist has studied how protein misfolding contributes to neurological disorders such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Her investigation of prions (proteins that can change into a self-perpetuating form) has identified the mechanism by which they form as well as the role they play in causing diseases such as mad cow.

Among Lindquist’s many awards are the Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Academic Achievement (2006), the Senior Award from Women in Cell Biology (2004), and the Dickson Prize in Medicine (2002). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. In 2002, she was named one of the top 50 women scientists by Discover magazine.

Earl Powell III

An expert in 19th and 20th century European and American art, Earl Powell III serves as the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Since assuming leadership of the museum in 1992, Powell has supervised the acquisition of more than 12,000 works of art, the opening of a suite of sculpture galleries, and the establishment of an award-winning Web site. Recently, Powell and the National Gallery have turned their attention to technology in the hopes of making the museum’s collections more accessible throughout the United States.

Prior to joining the National Gallery, Powell was the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1980-92). His vision and guidance helped transform the museum “from a local institution to a museum of international stature,” according to Art in America magazine. In 1990, Powell published a monograph on Thomas Cole, a 19th century American artist regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School.

Powell is an active member of many prominent arts organizations, including the National Council on the Arts, the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society. He is a trustee of the American Federation of the Arts, National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House Historical Association, and the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation.

He holds honorary doctorate degrees in fine arts from the Parsons Art Institute and Williams College, where Powell received his bachelor’s degree with honors. Powell received the King Olaf Medal of Norway and the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from France. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy from 1966 to 1969, and was in the Naval Reserve from 1969 to 1980.

Frank Shu

Frank Shu illuminates the far reaches of space with his pioneering theoretical work in astrophysics. He has been recognized for advancing knowledge of the structure of spiral galaxies, the dynamics of planetary rings, the origin of primitive meteorites, and the birth and early evolution of stars and planetary systems. Shu’s theory on the density of spiral arms, which he developed as an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, still governs the way scientists think about the structure of spiral galaxies.

Shu is presently a university professor of the University of California’s 10 campuses and a distinguished professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. He has held faculty appointments at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and the University of California, Berkeley. From 1994 to 1996, Shu served as president of the American Astronomical Society. He was president of National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan from 2002 to 2006.

Shu has been honored with a variety of awards, including the Warner Prize, the Brouwer Award from the American Astronomical Society, and the Heinemann Prize from the American Institute of Physics. As a member of Academia Sinica, a prominent academic institution in the Republic of China, Shu helped to found the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Ezra Vogel

Ezra Vogel is the Henry Ford II Research Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard. He has been affiliated with the University since the early 1950s, when he came to Cambridge to study sociology in Harvard’s Department of Social Relations. After completing his Ph.D. in 1958, Vogel spent time researching in Japan and teaching at Yale University. He returned to Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow in 1961, during which time he focused his studies on Chinese language and history.

Vogel was named professor in 1967 and subsequently served as director of Harvard’s East Asian Research Center (1972-77) and chair of the Council for East Asian Studies (1977-80). Following that position Vogel took the helm of the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at the Center for International Affairs (1980-87). He remains an honorary director today.

From 1993 to 1995 Vogel again left Harvard, this time to serve as the national intelligence officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council in Washington, D.C. Upon his return to Harvard he assumed leadership of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research (1995-99). Vogel became the first director of the Harvard University Asia Center in 1997, and served there until 1999. He has taught courses on a range of topics, including communist Chinese society, Japanese society, and industrial East Asia.

Vogel is a prolific writer and has published many influential works on China and Japan. These include “Japan’s New Middle Class” (University of California Press, 1971), “Canton Under Communism” (Harvard University Press, 1969), “Japan as Number One: Lessons for America” (Harvard University Press, 1979), and “The Four Little Dragons: The Spread of Industrialization in East Asia” (Harvard University Press, 1991).