by AMELIA KAHANEY
Among the accolades for scholar-scientists, this year’s Convocation also honored four women with a different but no less significant role in the advancement of research— Lydia A. Forbes, Isabel P. Furlaud, Nancy M.Kissinger, and Sydney Roberts Shuman, the founding chairs of Rockefeller’s Women & Science initiative.
First given in 1995 to David Rockefeller, grandson of the university’s founder and an ardent supporter of the university for more than seventy-five years, the award recognizes individuals from the Rockefeller community who have demonstrated an “unswerving enthusiasm for Rockefeller’s scientists and a deep concern for the progress of their research; selfless dedication to furthering the university’s mission and strengthening the institution; and an unstinting effort to enlist others to join in supporting biomedical science for the benefit of humankind.”
Together with President Emeritus Torsten Wiesel, the four founding chairs played leading roles in establishing Women &Science as a vital outreach program at Rockefeller. Over the past 18 years, the initiative has raised crucial support forbiomedical research and for the advancement of women scientists. “It was their extraordinary vision as philanthropists that enabled the four awardees to see that Women & Science also offered an opportunity to raise support for women, from women,” said Marc Tessier-Lavigne, the university’s president. “Thanks to that foresight, the university was introduced to an entirely new group of corporate, civic, and philanthropic leaders, who soon becam —and remain—some of our most engaged supporters and volunteers, benefitting Rockefeller at all levels of research.”
Mrs. Forbes has served on The Rockefeller University Council for more than 20 years, including 15 years on the Council’s Executive Committee. A nationally renowned competitive ballroom dancer, in 2008 Mrs. Forbes published The Year of Dancing Dangerously, which chronicles her first year of competitive dancing. She is a director of the DanceSport Academy, which provides ballroom dance programs for children on five campuses of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. She is also a board member of the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach.
Mrs. Furlaud has been a member of The Rockefeller University Council since 1998. In addition to her service to Rockefeller, she has served as president of the East Hampton Historical Society and as a member of the board of the managers of the East Hampton Library, an institution she was drawn to when she decided it needed better facilities for children. In 2006, Mrs. Furlaud established Aiken Equine Rescue on 90 acres of land in Aiken, South Carolina. Run mainly by volunteers, the organization rescues horses that have been abandoned or mistreated. Since its founding, Aiken Equine Rescue has saved roughly 600 horses, providing food and care until a responsible placement is found.
Mrs. Kissinger was elected to The Rockefeller University Board of Trustees in 1995, and now serves as a Trustee Emeritus. She is also a trustee of the Animal Medical Center, a director of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute, and an honorary trustee of The Masters School. Until recently, Mrs. Kissinger was a member of the board of overseers for the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. A longtime aide to the late Nelson Rockefeller, she served as director of international studies for his Commission on Critical Choices for Americans.
Mrs. Shuman joined The Rockefeller University Council in 1995 and was elected to the university’s Board of Trustees in 2001. In addition to Women & Science, she is an active supporter of the university’s Parents & Science program. Beyond Rockefeller, Mrs. Shuman is an honorary chair of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. She also serves as a trustee of Second Stage Theatre and is a member of the Villa I Tatti Council of Harvard University’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies.
“The founding chairs have made trans-formative contributions to Rockefeller that extend far beyond Women & Science,” Dr. Tessier-Lavigne says. “The 2015 David Rockefeller Award honors these four brilliant and visionary women as individuals—for their wise counsel, tireless advocacy, and exemplary leadership—and collectively, to signal the importance of the extraordinary program they created.”
The $24 million raised to date through Women & Science has supported 184 graduate and postdoctoral fellows, endowed the Rebecca C. Lancefield Chair, and provided program support for many research initiatives. It has also helped to build a culture of opportunity for women at all levels of the university. The program’s success financially and culturally has made it a national model for encouraging women to support scientific research.