Daniel Coit Gilman had an almost crystal ball-like vision of the university he was asked to steer 125 years ago. In his inaugural address, he talked of the not-yet-formed School of Medicine, "whose remedial and preventive agencies will extend to thousands who may never come within its walls," and of Hopkins facilities and agencies housed in Washington.
As current university president William R. Brody contemplates Hopkins' future, he says no such prophetic details are coming to him in his sleep. Brody says he is sure of one thing, however: Just as it always has, the university will continue to evolve by the catalyst of "knowledge discovery."
Pioneering stem cell research, for example, has led to the opportunistic creation of the Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering, he says. ICE, announced this month, will explore potential therapeutic cellular transplants that just two years ago were science fiction.
"When discovery occurs, all of a sudden it opens up enormous vistas," Brody says.
Brody will be sharing his vision of the university's future at the Commemoration Day Celebration, to be held at 4 p.m. on Feb. 22 in Shriver Hall, Homewood campus. The 125th Anniversary Address will focus on the forces transforming the nature of higher education and their implications for the shape and mission of Johns Hopkins and other universities.
"If I told you I could predict the future, I'd be lying," Brody says. "But I think I can reflect a lot. I see great possibilities for Hopkins.
"I get asked all the time, and I think about it all the time: What is the future of universities, and in particular Hopkins? So I thought on the occasion of the 125th anniversary it would be useful to revisit where are we going."
Brody says the key to Hopkins' success in the 21st century and beyond is not just laying down a physical foundation on which to grow, but "it's the process by which a university can adapt more rapidly to the pace of discovery in a generation of new knowledge.
"This ability to adapt is probably going to have the most profound impact on who the winners and losers are," Brody says. "The pace of change is so fast, and knowledge discovery is oftentimes occurring at the interface between traditional disciplines. Thus, the ability to react is as critical as what departments and fixed structures you have in place."
Responding to knowledge generation, he adds, is not confined to science. The new Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, he says, is likely to pull expertise from many nontechnical disciplines, such as philosophy and economics.
Without giving details of his address, Brody says two major themes he will be discussing are this "adaptation to discovery" and globalism--specifically, how it pertains to higher education.
In a world where many seek out the advantages and resources of higher education in America, Brody says he frequently contemplates the extent to which Hopkins will continue to reach out globally. He points, for example, to the expanding middle classes in places like India, where "there is a hunger for the U.S educational system."
"So some of them will come to the States to learn, but a lot of them will not," Brody says. "So one question is, do we continue to organize campuses elsewhere, and where? Do we simply have more, or do we want to focus on having something in Asia, something in Europe, something in South America or something in the African continent? I don't know. But these are questions we are likely to address."
Brody says another issue he will confront in his presentation are the "centrifugal forces that are pulling at universities." One such force is the evolution of information transmission. The world was a much larger and simpler place in 1876, Brody says, but today, with the advent of the Internet, the manner and speed at which knowledge is disseminated has had a profound impact on universities.
"That is really what I want to talk about--how the walls of the university are subjected to being torn down in some sense. The ivy is being pulled off the walls, as it were, by the free transmission and availability of information," he says.
Brody says many might be surprised by what they hear in his address.
"I think I have a different view of where universities are going than one might think. And people may not necessarily agree with it, and they might vehemently disagree. But I hope they will be challenged to think about how universities may be organized in the future," Brody says. "Within that new organization are threats to the kind of environment in which we have grown up and nurtured ourselves. I think those threats will be mostly sociological kinds of things. It's not the Internet that is going to take away what we do, but the whole way our society works is going to have profound implications on the university."
To read Daniel Coit Gilman's inaugural address of Feb. 22, 1876, go to http://www.jhu.edu/125th/links/gilman.html.