I was very sorry to have to miss my colleague David Levering Lewis’s inaugural address last Sunday evening at the Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi, so I was pleased to find the full text posted to NYUAD’s Salaam blog yesterday together with a brief description and pictures of the event.

David’s address offers an elegant brief history of the evolution of the modern university, from “an olive grove called Hekademia near Athens” to NYU Abu Dhabi, which he describes as “a liberal arts institution in service to the planet.” The address highlights the contributions made by the Islamic world to the preservation and development of the university ideal that had its germ in Plato’s teaching, while also singling out the contributions made by NYU, Harvard, Hopkins, Wisconsin, and Michigan to the US university model that is the foundation for NYUAD.

I was particularly pleased to see my friend Benjamin Franklin make a cameo appearance:

Philadelphia Quaker and self-taught polymath, Franklin founded the Academy and Charitable School of Pennsylvania in 1740 as the first truly secular institution of higher learning in the Western hemisphere. Open to male students regardless of religion and social status, though not of race, the University of Pennsylvania’s forerunner emphasized commerce and trade, and dispensed with Latin and metaphysics.

David’s address offers useful insights to anyone who has an interest in the past, present, and future of liberal education. Highly recommended. [Click here to go to the full text.]