Palfrey Names Darnton and Whitesides Recipients of Andover’s Highest Honor

Andover will recognize the broad individual achievements of George Whiteside ’57 and Robert Darnton ’57 with the Fuess Award at next week’s All-School Meeting, Head of School John Palfrey announced this week. Former Head of School Barbara Landis Chase selected Whitesides and Darnton, classmates at Andover who are now both University Professors at Harvard University, for their excellency in the fields of Chemistry and French History, respectively, said Palfrey. She asked Palfrey for his approval of the selections before he became Head of School, Palfrey said, because she knew that the awards would be given during his tenure. The Fuess Award recognizes alumni who, “through their teaching, scholarly, journalistic or other activities have made a distinguished contribution to public service…or to the strengthening of the civic conscience,” according to a 1964 letter to former Headmaster John Kemper written by the creators of the award to former Head of School John Kemper. “One of the many things we wanted to point to [with this award] was intellectual leadership…One of the great traditions of this school is the very deep and longstanding commitment to…the connection between service as teachers and researchers to the good of the commonwealth, and in George Whitesides and Robert Darnton it just so happened that [two] classmates here ended up being extraordinary exemplars of this spirit,” said Palfrey. The award ceremony will include speeches and a Q&A session with both recipients. Whitesides and Darnton will also each teach a pair of “master classes” in their subject, which will both be open to the public. Whitesides will speak about his groundbreaking research in Chemistry, and Darnton’s class will focus on his essay, “The Great Cat Massacre,” said Mary Mulligan, Instructor in History. After graduating together from Andover, Whitesides and Darnton matriculated to Harvard. They currently hold two of only 21 “University Professorships” at Harvard, the highest level of achievement for Harvard faculty. University Professorship honor individuals “whose groundbreaking work crosses the boundaries of multiple disciplines,” according to a Harvard webpage about the positions. Palfrey said that University Professors may teach and research in any department of their choosing. Darnton is a respected historian and has authored 24 books, including “The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History,” according to his biography on the Harvard History Department website. Scholars of the French Enlightenment recognize Darnton as an international leader in the field and broadly consider him a pioneer in the history of the book, according to an Andover press release. As the Director of the Harvard University Library and beyond, Darnton was an early supporter of a movement for a publically available digital library. He was a pivotal figure in organizing support for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) by institutions ranging from the Smithsonian Institute to the Library of Congress, according to the press release. Darnton earned his Ph.D. at Oxford University and worked as a journalist for the “New York Times,” according to his faculty biography on the Harvard History Department website. The holder of 90 patents, author of 950 published scientific articles and founder of 12 companies, Whitesides is widely recognized for his contributions to microfabrication, soft lithography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy among other areas in the study of chemistry, according to the Andover press release. He is the recipient of nearly 40 awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and the DARPA Award for Significant Technical Achievement, according to the Whitesides Research Group website. He is also the founder of “Diagnostics for All” (DFA), an organization devoted to reducing the effect of disease in developing countries, according to Whitesides Research Group. Whitesides and Darnton will be the 26th group of recipients of the Fuess Award and are two of 119 recipients since its conception in 1967, according to Nancy Jeton, Special Assistant to the Head of School. The award is named for Claude Moore Fuess, Headmaster from 1933 to 1948. All Fuess Award recipients receive a medal designed by Paul Manship, a renowned scholar. On the front of the medal is a bas-relief etching of Fuess and the words “For Distinguished Public Service,” said Jeton. Manship’s works include the well-known Prometheus statue in New York’s Rockefeller Center, as well as “Cycle of Life,” the iconic Andover armillary sphere that sits the Great Lawn. Past recipients include Oscar Tang ’56, former President of the Board of Trustees, in 1990, and George H.W. Bush ’42, former President of the United States, in 1980. Recipients are asked to attend the award ceremony at Andover and to speak to faculty and students about public service, said Jeton.