No Ivory, No Tower: Tom Healy Takes on Global Education as Fulbright Chair
When asked about his new position as Chairman of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Tom Healy, ever the poet, responds in verse:
Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents,
through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
To Healy, who also serves as Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at The New School, these lines from John Ashbery’s At North Farm, express the challenge and opportunity of education in our connected world.
We have to find new and better ways to communicate between our megacity Towers of Babel,, says Healy. We need to learn how to summon a shared eloquence that stops the constant noise and creates change. I believe artists are essential to waking us up. But once people are listening, we have to be ready with the skills and knowledge to make things better.,
Few are better situated than Healy to drive the development of such a global consciousness in education. As Chairman of the Fulbright board, Healy will lead the body that reviews applications from students, teachers and young leaders from the United States and the world over. Funded by the U.S. State Department, the Fulbright program awards approximately 8,000 new grants every year to applicants from all 50 states and 170 countries.
To his Fulbright role, Healy brings decades of experience not only in writing and teaching, but in non-profit and arts administration and advocacy. An early Chelsea gallerist, he led the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council after 9/11 and served on President Clinton’s White House Council on HIV/AIDS. And, of course, he is a poet. Healy authored the 2009 collection What The Right Hand Knows and his work has appeared in journals including Tin House and The Paris Review.
Teaching at The New School gives Healy an opportunity to join his twin passions for public engagement and artistic expression. This semester he is co-teaching with Parsons’ Irwin Chen a course on Ashbery, which will examine the intersections of art, music, poetry and technology. (N.B.: Both Chen and Ashbery are themselves former Fulbright Scholars.) He finds The New School to be the ideal place launch this kind of cross-disciplinary exploration.
I love the New School’s fierce ethos of individuality, how deeply creativity is nurtured and skepticism is honored,, says Healy. There are no pieties here. No ivory, no tower.