President G. Gabrielle Starr has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences joining a new class of members recognized for outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government and public affairs.
Starr is a highly regarded scholar of English literature whose work reaches into neuroscience and the arts. Her research looks closely at the brain, through the use of fMRI, to help get to the heart of how people respond to paintings, music and other forms of art. She is a national voice on access to college for students of all backgrounds, the future of higher education, women in leadership and the importance of the arts. She took office as the 10th president of Pomona College in 2017.
The Academy was chartered in 1780 to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” Academy members are elected on the basis of their leadership in academics, the arts, business or public affairs and have ranged from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to such 20th-century luminaries as Margaret Mead, Martin Luther King Jr. and Akira Kurosawa.
For 2020, the Academy elected 276 new members. In addition to Starr, the group includes singer Joan C. Baez, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., author Ann Patchett, poet and former Pomona College professor Claudia Rankine, among others.
Starr joins a number of exemplary Pomona alumni and former faculty in the AAAS, including scientists Jennifer Doudna ’85, J. Andrew McCammon ’69 and Tom Pollard ’64; author Louis Menand ’73; art historian Ingrid Rowland ’74; artist James Turrell ’65; journalist Joe Palca ’74; and genomic biologist Sarah Elgin ’67.
The Academy is led by Pomona College President Emeritus David Oxtoby, who was inducted into the Academy in 2012 and was named its president in 2018. He served as president of Pomona College from 2003 until 2017.
Starr becomes the third Pomona College president to join the Academy. David Alexander, who served as president of Pomona from 1969 to 1991, was inducted into the Academy in 2006.