CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences

About the Academy

Present and Former Honorary Members

Erich Angermann (University of Cologne)

Yves Bonnefoy (Collège de France)

Vittorio Castellano (University of Rome)

Jacques Derrida (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

Franco Ferrarotti (University of Rome)

Umberto Gori (University of Florence)

Sir Peter Medawar (Medical Research Council, U.K.)

Philip Morrison (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Paul Ricoeur (University of Paris)

René Taton (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

Ulrich Teichler (University of Kassel)

Stephan Verosta (University of Vienna)


The CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences was founded in 1981 to foster scholarship and research in CUNY. Affiliated with the University Faculty Senate, the Academy's central concern has been to create a University-wide intellectual community and to encourage and support the scholarship of younger faculty. The Academy is a central feature of university intellectual life.

To these ends, the Academy administers the Feliks Gross Endowment Fund which annually invites submission from assistant professors to a competition, judged by senior faculty. The winners receive a cash award and a plaque in recognition of outstanding scholarship. Recent winners have come from the humanities, social sciencs, and natural sciences. The Academy's  William Stewart Travel Awards support travel of young scholars to professional meetings. The Henry Wasser Awards honor our most promising assistant professors. 

Throughout the academic year, the Academy sponsors a variety of lectures, seminars, theatrical events, forums, conferences, debates and presentations of new work. Speakers have included Nobel laureates, faculty from other universities as well as CUNY faculty. The Academy also sponsors the Seminar on Higher Education, the Seminar on the Modern Greek State and the Abraham S. and Paulette Smith Eisenstadt lecture in U.S. History. These events are publicized through mailings and campus-based publicity.

The main source of support for the Academy is member dues and endowments. University faculty and staff are invited to join and to propose programs. Wide support from the CUNY community is an essential requisite for the continued success of the Academy, a unique entity in the University.

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Professor Emeritus Henry Hirsch Wasser, age 97, died on Sunday morning, September 4, 2016.   

Henry Wasser was an eminent figure in American higher education. Born in 1919 in Pittsburgh PA, he was the founding Dean of Faculties for Richmond College, an upper-level campus created as part of the City University of New York in 1966, now part of the College of Staten Island. He helped recruit the faculty for the college and served until 1973. 

Henry Wasser's vision of an upper division college was a place to develop interdisciplinary majors and programs.  The original faculty was recruited to develop cross disciplinary and thematic courses for juniors and seniors and transcend traditional disciplinary parameters.

He worked one year as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at California State University in Sacramento before returning to CUNY as a professor. He became increasingly involved with the University Faculty Senate and served as its chair from 1980 until 1986. He was a strong advocate of faculty governance in the aftermath of open admissions and the imposition of student tuition and other major changes at CUNY. His visionary views on the role of public higher education drew international attention. He worked with prominent European scholars on anthologies and major conferences about comparative higher education. He has been consulted on higher education policies in Poland, Turkey and elsewhere.

Professor Wasser earned his B.A. and M.A. from The Ohio State University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His field was American Studies and he was recruited by Sigmund Skard to help with the program for a year at the University of Oslo in 1963. He was a professor at City College from 1946.

He also taught at the University of Thessaloniki, the University of Oslo, University of Sussex, California State University in Sacramento, the University of Aveiro, Portugal, and the University of Bergen in Norway. 

His writings include The Scientific Thought of Henry Adams, the co-authorship of The Compleat University (with Ulrich Teichler and Harry Hermanns) and the editing of the Functions and Problems of the Urban University. He has written for numerous publications about the policies of higher education and his articles have been translated into several languages. 

After leaving as chair of the University Faculty Senate and Faculty Trustee of CUNY in 1986 he became the long-serving Executive Director of the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences. He became Executive Director Emeritus in 2011.

In June 1986 he was made Faculty Trustee Emeritus by the CUNY Board of Trustees, an honor given to no other person. 

The CUNY Academy mourns its greatest leader. Last year the Academy established the Henry Wasser awards for Assistant Professors.  On Thursday, October 27, the awards will be given as the Henry Wasser Memorial Awards.

He leaves behind his wife Solidelle, a son, Prof. Frederick Wasser of Brooklyn College and a daughter, Felicity, who is a Certified Public Accountant.  He is also survived by two grandsons.

Manfred Philipp
Executive Director, the CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences
September 6, 2016

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CUNY Academy for the Humanities and Sciences
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