The Center was delighted to have renowned historian David Blight of Yale University deliver its inaugural lecture, on April 5th 2012 at New York University’s Center for the Study of Transformative Lives. This public lecture was entitled “What makes a Transformative Life? Why Frederick Douglass Matters. David Blight is Professor of History at Yale University where he is also Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He came to Yale in 2003 from Amherst College where he had taught for thirteen years. Prior to that, he taught at Harvard and at North College in Illinois, having begun his career teaching public high school in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He is the author of many books, the most famous of which is perhaps Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. His earlier work, Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee, was of direct relevance to the lecture. “Douglass is a person who seems to have just kept on growing, combining moral vision and searing eloquence in a prophetic role of remarkable longevity,” commented Philip Kunhardt. “He was a potent force in the abolitionist movement of the 1840s and ‘50s; a critic of and then advisor to President Lincoln during the Civil War years; a major advocate of the great constitutional amendments that followed the war; a political appointee during the years of Reconstruction and afterwards, and a vocal witness to the changing landscape of emancipation and its betrayal. He operated in what he called the “moral realm,” which he took with profound seriousness. No one in the 19th century had such a clear and compelling vision of a post-racial, multi-racial future for the United States. Few activists knew so well the terrible obstacles to realizing this vision. Douglass felt he was confronting a true evil in the nation, and would not rest until it was overcome.” The theme of the lecture focused on thinking about what makes a transformative life. Can we look inside such lives and understand - at least in part how they developed - what key choices and moments of discovery were essential to their unfolding, and how they responded to events and challenges? This free event was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Transformative Lives and NYU’s Biography Seminar and was attended by NYU students and faculty as well as the larger public. In keeping with the inaugural nature of the event, the goal of the evening was to excite and inspire the audience, as well as to demonstrate the possibilities for this kind of inquiry into the deeper meanings of human lives acutely engaged with their times.


The Wisdom Of The Humanities: Building Meaningful Lives And Successful Careers | March 20, 2012

The first annual undergraduate symposium on The Wisdom of the Humanities, took place at 20 Cooper Square in March 2012. It was co-hosted by The Center for the Study of Transformative Lives and the NYU Humanities Initiative. The purpose of the event was to build understanding among students as to the value of studying a humanities degree and the career opportunities that this can open for them. The round table discussion featured five individuals who described the diverse paths they have taken since majoring in the humanities as undergraduates. It offered practical and personal advice on developing interests and skills in the humanities to achieve success, both within and beyond the workplace. The stellar panel which was invited to partake in the discussion included: Alexa Allen, a 2011 graduate of NYU’s Liberal Studies program, currently working for Citigroup in New York. Laura Brown, Executive Vice President of ITHAKA, an organization dedicated to advancing scholarly communication, and Managing Director of the digital archive JSTOR. Brown previously served as the president of Oxford University Press, USA. Barak Goodman, co-founder of Ark Media and the principal writer/producer/director for the company. His award winning documentary films have appeared on PBS and other networks. Matt Gornick, Policy Assistant Director for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), the nation’s foremost authority on homeless veterans’ issues.Eric S. Lee, President of Bennett Midland LLC, a management consulting firm