Robert Reich awarded the first Heller School Dean's Medal

The medal was awarded as part of the school's 55th anniversary celebration

Photo/Patrick Singleton

Robert Reich speaks to the audience at the Heller School's 55th anniversary gala dinner.

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, was presented with the first Dean's Medal from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management in a ceremony Sept. 13, held as part of the school's 55th anniversary celebration.

"This medal is given in recognition of an individual who has contributed both to the scholarship and practice of social policy, and the individual who receives this award should epitomize our motto: 'Knowledge advancing social justice,'" said Heller School Dean and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy Lisa M. Lynch. "I'm thrilled he decided to accept this."

Reich has had a distinguished career as an economist and scholar. He worked for the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter presidential administrations before serving in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997. Lynch was the chief economist for the labor department under Reich from 1995 to 1997. Reich is now a public policy professor at the University of California - Berkeley and was previously the Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy at the Heller School from 1997 to 2005. He was given the medal during the gala dinner for the 55th anniversary.

"It is a great honor. Thank you," Reich said. "Some of my happiest times and memories were during the time I was at the Heller School. Many people in this room were staff or members of the faculty. We had a ball."

In a speech after receiving the award, Reich said America is facing an economic "perfect storm:" a combination of a concentration of wealth, money increasingly playing a role in politics, and money in politics that comes from secretive sources. To find the way through the storm he encouraged people to seek out conversations and debates with individuals who hold different ideologies.

"We need to reach out, we need to argue, we need to respect," Reich said. "My experience has been that Americans across this country very much understand the value of decency and common sense. And that is why I am optimistic."

Reich’s talk was one piece of the weekend celebration, titled "Achieving Equity of Access and Opportunity," which was attended by several hundred alumni, faculty, staff and current Heller School students.

The weekend opened with a reception featuring a tribute to retiring faculty members Barry Friedman, Andrew Hahn, PhD'78 and Susan Holcombe, and an opening keynote address by Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative

An accomplished researcher, Alkire has worked toward developing and improving measurements of poverty. With James Foster, she developed a methodology for multidimensional poverty measurement. The measurement index creates a profile by combining various deprivations, like not having access to clean water or living with a dirt floor, and creates an overall deprivation score. Because the score can be broken down by deprivations, the index allows politicians and policymakers to show progress toward combating poverty within the political cycle.

Alkire complimented the Heller School for its commitment to preparing its students for challenges beyond the classroom.

"In confronting injustice, the Heller School blends teaching and awareness-raising with rigorous and realistic policy analysis, it seeks to unleash among its students the courage and wisdom they will need in later life, whether they go on to build insightful academic presentations or lead incisive activist policies," she said.

The two-day celebration also featured a series of panel discussions and workshops on Saturday, Sept. 13, including the Deans' Panel. Current Dean Lisa Lynch and former deans Jack P. Shonkoff and Stuart H. Altman, the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy, shared their views on the legacy of the Great Society 50 years later.

During the gala dinner, Lynch thanked the alumni who attended the weekend’s events.

“You have mentored our students, you have helped them find jobs in areas they want to work in, you’ve spoken to our prospective students about all that Heller has to offer and you’ve worked with our faculty and researchers to support some of the most critical research on some of the most pressing social policy issues of the day,” Lynch said. “This support has been invaluable. On behalf of all our students and our colleagues, thank you.”

Categories: Alumni, Humanities and Social Sciences

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