News Release: University News

Aug. 24,  2009

Emory Names Graduate School for James Laney

James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies honors former ambassador, president emeritus of Emory

News Article ImageJames T. Laney

The Emory University Board of Trustees has approved naming the Graduate School in honor of President Emeritus James T. Laney, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, who led the university from 1977 until 1993, a time when it emerged as a national research university.

"The naming of the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies honors the vision and leadership of Jim Laney, whose ambitious plan for Emory revolved around graduate education," said Emory President James W. Wagner. "He understood clearly that the core of great research universities lies in the training of new generations of intellectual leaders for the academy and for the public good."

"Emory's decision to name the Graduate School for me is the greatest honor of my life," said Laney. "From the very first, Emory has been in my heart, and I am deeply touched and humbled to always be associated with the university in such a special way."

Lisa A. Tedesco, dean of the newly designated Laney Graduate School, said that "naming the graduate school is a fitting way to acknowledge President Laney because it recognizes his vision for the central role of doctoral education in establishing and sustaining a great research university at the forefront of discovery in the sciences and humanities."

Laney's leadership

"Under Laney's leadership, Emory embarked on an extraordinary transformation, guided by goals he outlined in his 'Emory 2000' address, delivered in 1987," said Tedesco. "It was a transformation of the very identity of Emory."

That transformation reached a new milestone in 1995, when Emory was admitted to the prestigious Association of American Universities, "which would not have been possible without extraordinary commitments to graduate education and research that took place under President Laney's leadership," said Tedesco.

Woodruff gift

In 1979, barely two years into Laney's presidency, Emory received a gift of $105 million in Coca-Cola stock from the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation, at the time the largest single gift to any institution of higher education in American history.

"There's no way to overestimate what the Woodruff gift did for Emory in its transformative power," Laney observed. "The Graduate School was as much as any other part of the university a recipient of that strength."

Over the next decade, the Graduate School flourished. The size of the gift, the widespread publicity, and the university's vision for building its strengths in graduate education, meant that Emory was able to attract a number of distinguished scholars.

Future growth

Thanks to that legacy, said Tedesco, the Laney Graduate School is poised to grow in ways that exemplify Laney's earlier vision. Among the priorities are a commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship in addressing complex problems, and commitment to scholarship for the public good.

Added to the range of programs in social sciences, humanities, and natural, biological and biomedical sciences, Emory's proposed new master's degree program in development practice, announced in June, illustrates both of these priorities. The program will provide rigorous post-graduate training for a new generation of development experts.  

Biographical information

After 16 years as president of Emory, Laney served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1993 to1997, and was instrumental in helping defuse the nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994.

Laney's association with Korea began in 1947 when he served there in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. An ordained United Methodist minister, Laney taught at Yonsei University in Korea and Vanderbilt University before becoming dean of Emory's Candler School of Theology, where he served from 1969 to 1977.

He was educated at Yale, holding undergraduate, divinity, doctoral and honorary degrees from the university. He holds 22 honorary degrees from universities in the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Korea and Africa, including an honorary degree from Emory. He has received medals for distinguished service from the United States and Korea, the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale, the Emory Medal, and the General James Van Fleet award from the Korea Society.


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