Cantor Receives National Award for Exemplary Higher Ed Leadership
Receives Ernest L. Boyer award at AAC&U Annual Meeting
January 23, 2020—Washington, D.C.— Rutgers University – Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor was honored today with the 10 th Annual Ernest L. Boyer Award in a ceremony at the annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Named for one of the nation’s most revered higher education leaders, the award is bestowed by New American Colleges and Universities (NACU) upon individuals “who are making significant contributions to American higher education.”
In the announcement of Cantor’s selection for this honor distinguishing her among the nation’s college and university thought leaders, she was cited for being “globally recognized as an advocate for higher education, a catalyst for social mobility, and leader for universities serving as a public good in their communities.”
NACU President Sean Creighton said of Cantor, “She has advanced higher education and social justice and, ultimately, risen to Boyer’s challenge for colleges and universities to improve the human condition” and has been “an influencer and a mentor to numerous faculty and leaders who have gone on to reflect her tireless commitment to civic engagement.”
Boyer served in nationally prominent leadership roles including U.S. Commissioner of Education under President Jimmy Carter, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and Chancellor of the State University of New York. Among his most enduring work are reports widely considered prescient for having articulated a vision for the future of American higher education that appears to be unfolding even today. His book Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, in particular, published 30 years ago, continues to find new audiences at a growing number of colleges and universities as they consider how to recognize and reward faculty members for their full range of scholarly endeavors, including publicly engaged scholarship. Rutgers University is among such institutions, having adopted guidelines for evaluating publicly engaged scholarship in fall 2019.
Reflecting on Scholarship Reconsidered in her invited lecture given on the occasion of receiving the Boyer Award, Cantor described “the striking resemblance” of four key points he made “to everything we see now as urgently needed as we strive collectively, as a community of scholars, to re-commit higher education to the public good.” Those points constitute an evolution in perspective characterized by: a new vision of scholarship dedicated not just to renewal of the academy, but renewal of society; building bridges across disciplines and connecting campuses to the larger world; integrating ideas at the frontiers of knowledge to connect thought more to action and inspire students; and viewing scholarly work not in isolation, but in the context of the intellectual and social possibilities of a “community of scholars.”
NACU credits Cantor with having advanced such aspirations throughout her career in leadership roles at the University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Syracuse University, and Rutgers University – Newark. They cited her efforts to recognize and reward publicly engaged scholarship, cultivate genuinely reciprocal relationships between universities and their communities, and diversify the student body and faculty. Such themes are evident in Cantor’s many publications, invited lectures, and speeches. Most recently, they are articulated and expanded upon in a book series that she co-edits with long-time colleague Earl Lewis titled, Our Compelling Interests (Princeton University Press), in which the inaugural book of that name is subtitled, The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society.
Cantor considers Boyer “one of our great heroes” and called it “an extraordinary honor” to accept the award named for him, but was quick to share credit. “I do so on behalf of my amazing colleagues at my dear institution, Rutgers University-Newark and our many partners in the great city of Newark, as we all work as a team to instantiate a seamless two-way street between the university and community in the service of impact and equity. For, if there is one thing that I have learned over my career it is about the collective nature of our work and any progress we make in it.”
Past recipients of the Boyer Award have included Alexander and Helen Astin, Edward Ayers, John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot, Jose Antonio Brown, Cathy Davidson, Ira Harkavy, Frederick Lawrence, Carol Geary Schneider, and Beverly Daniel Tatum.
Among other similar recognitions Cantor has received are the Carnegie Corporation Academic Leadership Award, Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education, Making a Difference for Women Award from the National Council for Research on Women, Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education, and the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Diversity Leadership Award from the National Association of Diversity Officers inHigher Education.