"Was the Yalta Agreement a good idea?" This question represents a challenge few would undertake, at any age. Yet, at the age of 13, Jean Bethke began her distinguished career as a public intellectual by publishing her opinion on the topic in the Timnath Courier, her self-published hometown newspaper.
Many years hence, Jean Bethke Elshtain stands recognized among few peers for her independent analysis and insightful reflection on topics ranging from feminist theory, theology, international relations, war, the family, and political theory. In Jean's own words she defines the public role of intellectuals, "to offer the richest, most complex description of a situation that we can and then try to alert people to what political, civic, ethical, and philosophical resources we can draw on to help us see our way through ... "
After receiving a bachelors degree from Colorado State University, Dr. Elshtain went on to earn a Master's degree in history as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow from the University of Colorado in 1965. She earned her doctorate degree in politics from Brandeis University in 1973.
Dr. Elshtain currently holds the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, Dr. Elshtain was a member of the faculty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and then at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt she became the first woman to hold an endowed chair in the history of that institution.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Dr. Elshtain is the author of over four hundred essays in scholarly journals, over two hundred book reviews and twenty books. Dr. Elshtain's work has been described by the New York Times Book Review as, "wise, humane, and profoundly reflective" and by the magazine Utne Reader as one of the top 100 visionaries for the next century.
Jean served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, is currently on the Board of Trustees of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and is a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Elshtain is Chair of The Council on Families in America, a member of the National Commission for Civic Renewal, and Chair of the Council on Civil Society.
The counsel of presidents, religious and civic leaders, Jean has been a tireless advocate for democracy, for the social responsibilities of each individual, and for the importance of morality and virtue in public life. In the evolution of our "unpredictable enterprise" of democracy we are fortunate to have as able a navigator at our side as Jean Bethke Elshtain to point out the dangers that lurk just beneath the surface.
Dr. Elshtain brings to the Siena College campus today the soul of a teacher. Whether in the halls of academia where Jean is the recipient of the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award, the highest award for undergraduate teaching given at Vanderbilt University, or in the halls of government, Dr. Elshtain brings both the knowledge to separate the issues and the perspective to influence thoughtful solutions.
In recognition and appreciation for her distinguished career in the academy as a professor, scholar, author, lecturer and for the unique contributions she has made as public intellectual and civic educator, Siena College today confers on Dr. Jean Bethke Elshtain the degree of Doctor of Letters.