President's Letter - February 26, 2002

Dear Tulane Alumni, Friends and Colleagues:

undefinedEvery February and August, I send each of you a letter like this one, outlining a few recent highlights of life at Tulane. This letter, like those that came before it, will contain much of the information you've come to expect and, I hope, anticipate.

But I would be remiss if I did not first acknowledge on these pages the life-changing events of Sept. 11, 2001, and their effects on the university and on just about everyone with whom I've spoken since then. I am proud of the way the people of Tulane University responded as a campus, in many ways mirroring our response as a nation. Faculty, staff and students drew strength and solace from each other, initially through interfaith services, counseling and participation in relief efforts and, later, through what we do best--focusing our intellectual and scholarly resources on interpreting and explaining the events as best we could.

The events of Sept. 11 are five months past now and we at Tulane, like most organizations, are still feeling the impact, both on personal and institutional levels. I think we have adjusted to lives filled with tighter security, a greater awareness of our place in the world and, I hope, a heightened sensitivity to what is really important in our lives.

Still, despite the greater uncertainty we all face, we continue to move forward toward realizing our strategic goals, and I am pleased to report to you a few of our most recent highlights.

First, we always knew Tulane was "hot" but now a lot of other people know it, too. Last fall, Tulane was named a "Hot School" in Kaplan/Newsweek's How to Get Into College Guide for 2002. This designation has nothing to do with the heat and humidity; rather, Tulane was cited for posting a 31 percent increase in applications in 2001 and for being an "academically superior university" in a great setting. The top 10 "hot" schools, including Tulane, were featured in newspapers across the country as well as on NBC's "Today" show.

Fast Facts

Among private universities, Tulane is one of only four members of the prestigious Association of American Universities from the South:

  • Tulane University
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Vanderbilt University

undefinedThat 31 percent increase in applications from first-year students for fall 2001 meant that the class was assembled from a field of more than 10,000 applicants. The average SAT score of the class is 1326, up 48 points from just four years ago. Of enrolled students 65 percent finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class and 85 percent finished in the top quarter of their class. The enrollees are among the top 5 percent of the national college-bound population.

Needless to say, this is a terrific group of students, and we are honored to have them entrust their education to Tulane. As I write this letter, it appears we will have another record-breaking year for applications, as interest among prospective students continues to be very strong.

The university also had good news late last fall from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which awarded Tulane an implementation grant to establish the Deep South Regional Humanities Center. The award followed 18 months of planning and a detailed application process with competition among approximately 100 universities. The center is one of nine designated regional humanities centers across the country, and is charged with promoting education and research on the Deep South region through academic conferences, research fellowships, teacher training, lectures, performances, exhibitions and tours. We're proud of center co-directors, history professors Sylvia Frey and Larry Powell, and all of the other faculty and staff members involved in getting the center on its feet.

*as of 1/23/02


*accepted students
as of 1/23/02


undefinedSince coming to Tulane more than three years ago (how time flies!), I have continually stressed the importance of people to our success. Each position we fill is a crucial one, for it is only through a dedicated faculty and staff that the university is able to fulfill its obligations to its students, community and society, and to excel. I am pleased to briefly introduce to you several people who are new to Tulane or who are filling new positions at the university.

In October, Andrew Lackner took over the reins of the Tulane Regional Primate Research Center following the retirement of longtime director Pete Gerone. Andrew comes to Tulane from Harvard Medical School and the New England Regional Primate Center, where he was associate professor of pathology and chairman of the division of comparative pathology, respectively.

Michael Herman is not a new face at Tulane, but he is in a new position. Michael, a professor of chemistry and member of the Tulane faculty since 1981, was appointed dean of Tulane's Graduate School in January. Michael's appointment restores the dean's position to the Graduate School for the first time in a decade and signals a major step in our commitment to the process of revamping and revitalizing graduate studies at Tulane.

I also am pleased to introduce English professor Cynthia Lowenthal as the dean of Newcomb College. As many of you know, Cynthia has been serving as interim dean at Newcomb for some time now, and has been involved with Newcomb since coming to Tulane in 1987.

Finally, I recently announced the appointment of associate professor of anthropology T.R. Kidder as interim dean of Tulane College. T.R.'s one-year interim appointment will go into effect on July 1, when Anthony Cummings, who has led Tulane College for the past 10 years, steps down. Tony will rejoin the faculty following a year's sabbatical.

Fast Facts

The Tulane University faculty is ranked in the top 30 of private research universities nationally in terms of membership in national academies and receipt of faculty awards.

undefinedIn the past five years, 45 Tulane students have won 16 national academic competitions, including Rhodes, Fulbright and Marshall scholarships. This number ranks Tulane among the top universities nationally.

Another aspect of the important "people factor" at Tulane is the quality of our faculty, who continue to be recognized for their achievements both inside and outside the classroom. Following are some of our most recently honored faculty members.

  • Leena Ala-Kokko of the Center for Gene Therapy received the prestigious Anders Jahre award for her work in gene therapy research. This award is often referred to as the "mini-Nobel" because its winners have frequently gone on to win that prestigious prize.
  • Engineering dean Nicholas Altiero was elected vice president for institutional councils of the 12,000-member American Society for Engineering Education.
  • Business professor Art Brief was named editor of the Academy of Management Review, one of the world's most influential business journals.
  • Sanda Clejan of pathology and Ronald King of political science were awarded Fulbright Grants to conduct research and study in Romania and Denmark, respectively.
  • Ulrike Diebold of physics received one of only 20 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Prizes awarded worldwide by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany.
  • History professor Kenneth Harl was one of only two American professors to receive the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.
  • Tulane law professor and former dean John Kramer received the American Association of Law Schools' Deborah L. Rhode award for outstanding public service.
  • Cheryl Nickerson of microbiology and immunology was selected to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by NASA and was honored in a White House ceremony last fall.
  • John P. Perdew of physics was designated by the Institute of Scientific Information as one of the 100 most-cited physicists in the world.
  • Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede of chemistry won a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship--one of only 100 awarded worldwide--to continue her research on the function and behavior of proteins.
  • Charles Zeanah of psychiatry and pediatrics received the 2001 Norbert and Charlotte Rieger Service Program Award for Excellence from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

There are so many more exciting things going on at Tulane that I wish I had room to share. (Just for a hint, author William Safire has been named our 2002 commencement speaker, University College is making plans to open a campus on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and our Green Wave baseball team is entering a new season ranked high in the national polls.) Those will have to wait until next time. Until then, I hope you will take a few minutes to visit the Web site of the Tulane University Report of the President. This year, working around the theme "A Gauge of Distinction," we are presenting a quick look at the truly remarkable and sometimes surprising institution that Tulane has become. You have seen a few of these "fast facts" in this letter. Want to know what's "classic," "surprising" and "bold" about Tulane? Go to the Web site and find out!

Till next time,


Scott S. Cowen

Office of the President Emeritus, 1555 Poydras St, Suite 700, New Orleans, LA 70112 504-274-3638