Yellen Honored with Blackwell Award

FLI Celebrates 10th Anniversary

by Andrew Wickenden ’09

Hobart and William Smith Colleges presented Dr. Janet L. Yellen, the first woman chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, with the prestigious Elizabeth Blackwell Award in January.

Named for Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman in modern times to receive the Doctor of Medicine degree, the Blackwell Award is given to women whose lives exemplify outstanding service to humankind. Blackwell earned her degree in 1849 from Geneva Medical College, a precursor of Hobart College.

“It’s doubly an honor to find myself associated with the individuals who have received the Blackwell Award before today,” Yellen said before an audience of HWS trustees, students, faculty, staff, alums and friends of the Colleges during a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “I am very grateful to be here, but especially grateful that Hobart and William Smith have used this award since 1958 to celebrate the service and historic achievements of these 39 women. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Elizabeth Blackwell. I want to thank you. This is a tremendous honor.”

Yellen is the 40th recipient, joining the dozens of other women who have achieved at the highest levels and broken down barriers across their respective fields and pursuits. HWS confers the award whenever a candidate of appropriate qualifications is identified. Other recipients include creator of the Special Olympics Eunice Kennedy Shriver; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai P’94, P’96, Sc.D.’94.

“Dr. Blackwell was, fundamentally, a public servant, an individual who devoted her life to easing the suffering of the sick and infirmed, and to improving the health and wellness of all people,” said President Mark D. Gearan during his welcome address. “Tonight, we celebrate another public servant who, like Dr. Blackwell, is a trailblazer and pioneer.”

Also at the ceremony and sharing remarks was Dr. John E. Yellen ‘64, brother of Janet, program director for archaeology at the National Science Foundation, and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

“I am proud to call myself an alumnus and proud that Hobart and William Smith have chosen to honor my sister in this way,” said John Yellen. “…one thing that education can do is to provide an increased selfunderstanding of ‘decency’ by setting it into a broader historical and intellectual context... And in this context I think it very appropriate that Janet receive the Elizabeth Blackwell Award. Physicians by their very calling are decent people and I think that’s an essential characteristic of Janet as well. It’s clear that decency is at Janet’s core and constitutes one of her guiding principles. So I think that the Blackwell Award is particularly appropriate.”

An expert on economic policy and macroeconomics specializing in the causes, mechanisms and implications of unemployment, Yellen also serves as chair of the Federal Open Market Committee. Responsible for a balance sheet of more than $4 trillion at the Federal Reserve, Yellen was named by Forbes in 2014 as the world’s second most powerful woman and sixth most powerful person. For the past three years, Bloomberg Markets magazine has named Yellen to its 50 Most Influential list, citing individuals who have “the ability to move markets or shape ideas and policies.”

“There has been a gradual, but significant increase in the share of women in economics, but women still remain underrepresented at the highest levels in academia and government, and business,” Janet Yellen said during her remarks. “I hope and will do all that I can to ensure that over time that changes.”


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