Levine tells Honors Convocation that future depends on collaboration

Chancellor Gallagher


In a keynote address, Arthur Levine, outgoing senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, told attendees of Pitt’s 43rd Honors Convocation that the future of academics will depend on collaboration between the sciences and humanities.

The ceremony, which took place on Feb. 22 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, saw nearly 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 470 faculty honored for their work during 2018-19 academic year.

Thirteen Pitt faculty members were honored with Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s Distinguished Public Service, Research and Teaching Awards, announced at the 43rd annual Honors Convocation. The awards carry a $2,000 prize and $3,000 grant to support work of the recipients.

For a full list of all those recognized, click here.

“This is an elite cohort of individuals and it’s their work and their accomplishments that serve as a reminder that some of the best and brightest minds call Pitt home,” Chancellor Pat Gallagher said of the awardees.

Gallagher then introduced Levine, the keynote speaker, who announced in January that he was stepping down from his positions to pursue Alzheimer’s research at the University’s Brain Institute.

Levine, who’s been with Pitt since 1998, said his time studying Russian literature and theater during his undergraduate years at Columbia University later informed his future studies at the Chicago Medical School and postgraduate medical training in pediatrics, hematology and biochemical genetics.

He admitted that this may seem strange to some academics in the biomedical field.

“Literature and theater, writing and acting, that was training for life of the mind where we investigate what really matters and where truth lies,” Levine said. “I’m not sure I could’ve articulated it as an undergraduate, but I know now that the most exciting ideas and intellectual advances often occur in the space where disciplines collide.”

Throughout his speech, he weaved in examples of great thinkers and inventors, such as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Thomas Jefferson who married their work with the humanities and sciences.

He then said that it was imagination that lead to the many technological innovations, such as television and smartphones, that we enjoy today. And that imagination will continue to progress fields in biogenetics and technology.

However, he warned, that there may be threats to the humanities and sciences as many federal agencies that investigate these subjects have seen budget cuts recently. He used this as a call to action for academics.

“You should also use your voices to share your expertise and your perspective,” Levine said. “But if people can’t understand what you do, your work will not be encouraged.

“You and I need to be brave enough to live our professional lives creatively and boldly. But that honor and privilege comes with profound responsibility — yes, responsibility to generate knowledge and to be a force to make the world a better place.”

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.