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Announcing the Clement Alexander Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience

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Hundreds of donors assure the legacy of Dr. Clement Price, as the Institute he founded is renamed in his honor.

Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi announced on Saturday, Feb. 21st that the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience will henceforth bear the name of its founder, the late Dr. Clement Alexander Price, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor of History. The announcement was made to an overflow crowd of hundreds gathered in tribute to Price held at the Newark Museum, culminating day-long events surrounding the 35th annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture.

Barchi noted in his remarks that the eminent historian Kenneth L. Jackson had declared that “No other scholar or teacher about cities in the United States has ever had so profound and lasting an influence as Clement Alexander Price.” The extent of Price’s impact as a public historian and humanist was evident in the more than 230 friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens who have stepped forward since his passing to guarantee that his vision and legacy endure, donating gifts in Price’s memory to carry on the institute’s mission. Barchi announced that a total of more than $5 million has been received to date in Price’s honor. He thanked all of the donors, including “Clem’s beloved family, childhood friends, educators, his barber, small business owners, current and former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, foundations and corporations.”

Barchi singled out four lead donors who each contributed $1million:

  • Marc E. Berson, Rutgers College, 1966, and Rutgers School of Law-Newark, 1968, founder and chair of The Fidelco Group. An attorney and philanthropist, Berson is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the NJPAC and a member of its Executive Committee. He is a former trustee of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Paper Mill Playhouse.
  • Raymond G. Chambers, Rutgers School of Business-Newark, 1964, philanthropist and humanitarian; chair, The MCJ Amelior Foundation.  Chambers serves as United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria.
  • Paul V. Profeta, president and owner of Paul V. Profeta and Associates, Inc., which is involved in real estate investment, management and leasing throughout the country.  He is founder of the Profeta Urban Investment Foundation at Rutgers Business School (RBS), which provides free consulting advice and seed capital for minority owned businesses in Newark, N.J., and endowed the Paul V. Profeta Chair in Real Estate at RBS.
  • Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Cantor and her husband Steve Brechin, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, whom Barchi praised for their exceptional commitment and generosity.

The tribute to Price at which the renaming of the institute was announced capped festivities built around the annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series (MTW), which this year was held in commemoration of Price, who passed away in November 2014. He was a towering, nationally respected figure in the humanities and the arts, one of New Jersey’s leading public intellectuals. The institute reflects Price’s commitment to public scholarship and engagement, carried out through programs and research initiatives that foster broad public discussion on the arts and culture, urban life and development, diversity and race relations, education, and history at the local, national, and transnational levels. Price co-founded the series in 1981 with the late Giles R. Wright.

In welcome remarks for the day’s events, Cantor stated that this year’s MTW lecture, themed “Curating Black America,” is “a moment of memory, a memorial – for Clem, and for what it has meant to have this remarkable series. A series of lived and living history that will live on, as will dear Clem, and his legacy, for lives like his, and like that of Marion Thompson Wright, and like those that are curated by and in this series, and in the museums and parks and historic sites preserved and presented and created by those who will speak here today, do not pass on – they inspire always, for all time.” (read her full remarks)

The MTW lecture program marshaled some of the nation’s leading curators to reflect on the challenges and opportunities presented by relating the African American experience through history, interpretation of historic sites, and the arts. Lonnie Bunch, inaugural director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), presented the keynote lecture, relating his experience launching the museum, the opening of which is slated for mid-2016 on the mall in Washington, D.C. The day’s other speakers explored black history and culture through their own experiences as leaders of premiere museums and historic sites.  These were:

  • Robert Stanton, former director of the National Park Service;
  • Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem;
  • George McDaniel, executive director, Catherine Braxton, and Rebecca Campbell of the Drayton Hall Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina.

The annual conference is named for East Orange native Dr. Marion Thompson Wright, a pioneer in African American historiography and race relations in New Jersey, who was the first professionally trained woman historian in the United States. Over the decades, the conference has drawn thousands of people to RU-N while attracting some of the nation’s foremost scholars in African and African American history and culture. It is one of the nation's leading scholarly programs specifically devoted to enhancing the historical literacy of an intercultural community.

In addition to the institute, the MTW is sponsored by the Federated Department of History, RU-N and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The 2015 conference received additional support from the New Jersey Historical Commission/Department of State; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities; the Rutgers Committee to Advance Our Common Purposes; and the Prudential Foundation.

The tribute to Price concluded with a discussion about his numerous contributions in the fields of public history, African American history and the public humanities.   Speakers were a “who’s who” of American historians: Pulitzer Prize-winning historians Taylor Branch and Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard Law School); Spencer Crew, George Mason University; Johnnetta Cole, Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, and Nell Irvin Painter, artist and professor emerita, Princeton University.

Mary Sue Sweeney Price, Price’s widow and former director of the Newark Museum, was effusive in her expressions of her and the whole Price family’s gratitude for the day’s events, especially for the collective investment in her late husband’s legacy at the institute. “The outpouring of generosity in the form of support for the Clement Alexander Price endowment, to continue the urban education initiatives in which he so passionately believed, means everything to the Price Family and to me,” she said. “I look forward to the Price Institute’s continuing tradition of excellence and access to all, and to its role in explaining and healing the rifts in our society.”

Read Former Chancellor Steven J. Diner's reflections on Dr. Price's legacy.

For additional information, or to make a donation to the institute:  ethnicity.rutgers.edu, or 973/353-3891.