Friday, October 5, 2012

It is my very great honor to welcome you to this wonderful—and I must admit a little bittersweet—symposium. The wonder of this program comes in the exciting work that is being shared in the critical area of women and citizenship. The symposium will explore this significant issue from an impressive array of dimensions: war, health, families, political activism, internationalism, and the law, among others.

But when we think about whom this symposium is honoring, that remarkable multidimensional aspect of your main topic is not surprising. And that’s where the bittersweet part of this program comes into play. Without doubt, Linda Kerber deserves a symposium in her honor for her groundbreaking career—period. And very definitely, she—and the academic world—deserve such a program recognizing her pioneering contributions to the fields of history and law on the occasion of her retirement. But that also means that, here at the University of Iowa, we are bidding farewell to one of our most prominent, celebrated, and beloved faculty members.

Linda’s long career at Iowa and her dedication to excellence and achievement have left a profound mark on our institution. She has been central to defining the study of women in our history and society not only nationally, but here at our university. Hundreds of Iowa students and colleagues have been influenced by her vision, her passion, her intellect, and her scholarship and teaching. I think it’s safe to say that history, women’s studies, the liberal arts in general, as well as law at Iowa would not be the same today without Linda Kerber’s work and impact.

Everyone gathered here certainly understands Linda’s impact nationally and even internationally in the development of women’s history and the historical field in general. I can think of only a handful of people either on our campus or in the academy generally who have such a complete record of accomplishment as Linda Kerber. She has conducted award-winning research and teaching, winning an incredible number of recognitions both here on campus and nationally. She has written some of the most important books in her field that are still central texts today. She has served as editor and advisory board member to an astonishing array of journals, museums, and organizations across the country and across the oceans, including Japan. She has earned her place in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the most important academies in the liberal arts and sciences. She has served as president of not just one, but all three of the major academic societies in her field: the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the American Studies Association.

Looking back at that amazing series of accomplishments, I think I might be ready to retire, too. But even though she is retiring from her professorial position here at Iowa, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Linda Kerber as an influential and visionary academic. Someone as remarkable as Linda cannot just turn the scholarly switch off. Her professional activities may—or may not—shift in the coming years, but I know that she will continue to influence students, scholars, and historians of all stripes in profound ways. Even if Linda did somehow turn that scholarly switch off, what she has accomplished in her career has been so prolific, so pioneering, and so central that her influence will continue well into the future based just on her past achievement.

We see evidence right here of that, right now in this symposium. This program is not just a way to honor Linda Kerber’s career, but it is also an important gathering that continues and advances her work through the influence she has had on this distinguished gathering of scholars.

So as I welcome you to this symposium, I also have many people to thank. I thank Terry Snyder and all of those who have organized this conference and have made it possible to bring you all here to the University of Iowa. I thank all of the presenters, participants, and audience members for the excellent work that you are doing in the realm of women, history, and citizenship. And I thank Linda Kerber—for her many years of service, leadership, teaching, and scholarship that she has shared with us here at Iowa and throughout the world, and for her vision and talent that have truly blazed brave and necessary academic trails that so many of us continue to walk.

Thank you again for inviting me to welcome you today, and I offer you my best wishes for a most enlightening and inspiring symposium.