Rededication of Gilman Hall

Remarks by President Ronald J. Daniels
Gilman Hall

Good evening and welcome again to this long anticipated event!

I want to start by welcoming home four very distinguished guests – President Emeritus Bill Brody and Wendy Brody, President Steve Knapp, and the 17th President of Williams College, Adam Falk. Adam and Bill, we are particularly appreciative of the role that you both played in spearheading this glorious rejuvenation of Gilman Hall. Thank you.

I’d also like to welcome the new dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Katherine Newman. As you know, Katherine comes to us after a distinguished academic career at Berkeley, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton. At Princeton, she was the Malcom Stevenson Forbes 41 Professor at the Wilson School and at the Department of Sociology. Katherine is an internationally renowned expert in poverty and the working poor, and her many books and articles have defined scholarly debate in this area. She is a distinguished sociologist, inspired public intellectual, indefatigable champion for interdisciplinary collaboration, and a gifted educator. She has also been our impresario extraordinaire, who, along with many of her colleagues, has played a central role in orchestrating this magnificent evening. Welcome Katherine.

Ninety-five years ago, Johns Hopkins University dedicated Gilman Hall and, in essence, initiated its move from cramped quarters in downtown Baltimore to the verdant and spacious Homewood estate that we now know as home.

In May, 1915, the young university formally inaugurated both Gilman Hall, the first building under construction on this campus, and the engineering building now known as Maryland Hall.

Photos from the dedication of Homewood show throngs of people standing in row upon row of folding chairs assembled on a platform – precisely where we are sitting tonight. It was a cloudy Friday afternoon and the skies threatened rain. Spirits were high, though, and the air was thick with anticipation. The men were dapper in their suits and bowlers, the women demure in long dresses and hats.

When the big clock in the tower of Gilman Hall struck half past four, the academic procession emerged and the dedication of the new campus commenced.

The trustees and faculty labored to ensure that the Homewood dedication ceremonies would be a community affair. To this end, the planning committee sent out more than 7,000 invitations, hoping to include all sections of the city, and hundreds more showed up for the dedication. As reported in the Baltimore Sun the following day:

Men and women from every section of the city were there. … And [the] hundreds who received no invitations understood the attitude of the faculty and trustees that this was to be no exclusive affair, that the university really belonged to the people and was established to serve them…

Tonight, as we gather to rededicate the glorious Gilman Hall, we are reminded of the values at the core of our university.

We are reminded of the great faith placed in us by the people of Baltimore and beyond.

We are reminded that in our guardianship of the ideas inherited from ages past, in our pursuit of truth and enlightenment, and in our celebration of beauty, we enrich and rekindle our society’s soul.

In this way, we honor that simple but trenchant observation from the Baltimore Sun: “that the university really belonged to the people and was established to serve them…”

There is no gainsaying that the completion of Gilman Hall in 1915 ushered in a new era for Johns Hopkins. We have spent the past 95 years growing into, and filling out, this campus. We have grown in ideas, in aspirations and ambitions, in bricks and mortar and, of course, in students, staff and faculty.

And throughout this time, the humanities, which are housed in Gilman, have remained steadfastly at the heart of our landscape.

It is no accident that Hopkins’ first faculty member, Basil Gildersleeve, was a professor of Greek. Our first President, Daniel Coit Gilman understood the indispensability of the humanities to the great university.

He knew that without an intellect honed and steeped in the humanities, the capacity to make sense of the world, its monumental challenges, its joys and its sorrows, could not help but be impaired.

And, over the years, the humanities at Johns Hopkins have fuelled our imaginations. They have given form, content and perspective to the intellectual enterprise that defines our community. They have inspired us. They have disciplined us. They have challenged us. And they have healed us.

And, as critical as the humanities have been to our past, they are no less so to our present and to our future.

Indeed, as global commerce knits diverse and dispersed cultures and peoples together, as we come ever closer to unraveling the most vexing mysteries of the origins of life and of our universe, as technology threatens to shape and reshape our innate personhood, and, as the capacity for mass and irremediable destruction spreads to more and more countries, who would dare deny the role of the humanities in lending context, insight, sometimes even succor to our most commanding challenges, our most aching anxieties.

The lofty clock tower and the chimes that ring out on the quarter hour from Gilman Hall are constant and evocative reminders of the signature place the humanities hold in our university and in our world.

In re-consecrating Gilman Hall, we powerfully reaffirm our commitment to the future of the humanities at Johns Hopkins.

And to help secure this future, the Provost and I are pleased tonight to share with you the University’s decision to augment significantly the number, term, and quantum of supplementary stipends for graduate students at the Krieger School. Over the next five years, this commitment will exceed $5M, and we anticipate that the humanities departments will be very significant beneficiaries of this investment. But we leave that to the Dean, advised by her Chairs, to sort out. Good luck all.

Thank you for all for joining us on this momentous evening.