Carnegie Corporation of New York Welcomes New President, Dame Louise Richardson

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Carnegie Corporation of New York Welcomes New President, Dame Louise Richardson

The board of trustees and staff of Carnegie Corporation of New York are thrilled to welcome Dame Louise Richardson on her first official day as our new president. A renowned academic leader and distinguished expert on international terrorism, Richardson most recently served as vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford.

One of seven children raised in Tramore, Ireland, Richardson was the first in her family to attend college. At Oxford, and previously as principal and vice-chancellor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Richardson significantly expanded access for students from nontraditional backgrounds like her own — the university expects that a quarter of Oxford students will come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds by the end of this year.

The Corporation’s new president talks with long-serving Corporation trustee Judy Woodruff about growing up in rural Ireland, the dangers of binary thinking, and much more, including being the first in her family to go to college.

Judy Woodruff: It is my great pleasure to be spending some time with Dame Louise Richardson, who is about to become the 13th president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. Louise, it’s wonderful to be talking with you. 

Dame Louise Richardson: It’s a pleasure.  

Woodruff: You are a political scientist. You have specialized in the study of terrorism, but you’ve studied much more broadly than that. You’re returning to live in America after 14 years, seven years as vice-chancellor of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, and most recently as vice-chancellor at the University of Oxford. This is a big question: What does the world look like to you?  

Richardson: Well, it is a big question. I think the answer is very different than it would have been a few years ago. The world is a frightening place at the moment, what with the aftereffects of the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the daily accumulating evidence of the ravages of climate change, and the fragility of democracy being exposed. And yet, I’m a perennial optimist. 

Woodruff: So, you are taking over this great institution, one of the great philanthropic institutions in the world, Carnegie Corporation of New York, at a time when we are still in the pandemic. You’ve had experience at the University of Oxford with the development of a vaccine. What is your perspective at this point on the COVID pandemic? 

Richardson: Well, I think there are many lessons from the pandemic. The first is that we cannot afford to ignore risks that we know are facing us, things like antimicrobial resistance, things like climate change. The pandemic, for all of its difficulties and tragedies that occurred as a consequence, really showed just what science can do. The fact that we went from nothing to several effective vaccines in a year is pretty spectacular, a real testament to the power of the human spirit, the human intellect, and to global collaboration among scientists. We showed what we can do, but we should have been better prepared than we were. 

Woodruff: There is the science and certainly the public health aspect of this pandemic, but there is also the human aspect of it. You are moving to New York City, moving back to the United States. How do you think we have all taken on board what has happened?

Richardson: I think we have been really shaken by the pandemic. So much of our strength as a community comes from relationships with one another. And yet, unfortunately, during the pandemic, we were forced to separate, to be suspicious of relationships, of physical proximity, and that was damaging. Then on the educational front, I think we have gone back years in terms of the work that had been done to reduce inequalities in education. For so many students, school is such a wonderful opportunity, but the pandemic exposed the deep inequalities in our society in a way that was really quite tragic. I think now our work is really cut out for us to try to redress the loss of years of education especially among the most disadvantaged...


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