September 18, 2000
Volume 53, No. 4
Ambitious year has simple origins
By Michael Terrazas
It all began with a walk through campus. Sometime in late 1998, Provost Rebecca Chopp was strolling with law school Dean Woody Hunter and former theology Dean Kevin LaGree, and the three of them were discussing how much faculty resources at Emory had grown in recent years.
"Kevin pointed out that it would be helpful to find a way to strengthen cross-school cooperation," Chopp recalled. She said they began talking about holding an event dedicated to a topic on which there could be much debate, one that would underscore the strength and reputation of the faculty, one that would prompt-as Chopp put it-an "intensification of intellectual vigor."
"It also dawned on us," she continued, "that we would be facing the millennium-how would a university celebrate the millennium?"
With the renowned Conflict Resolution program and Law and Religion program, a bedrock of related intellectual principles already set forth in the form of 1994's Choices & Responsi-bility-not to mention the presence on campus of two of the world's most famous reconcilers in President Jimmy Carter and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu-is it any wonder that the Univer-sity came up with the idea of reconciliation?
"We initially thought of 'reconciliation' in terms of international events," said Chancellor Billy Frye, who agreed to serve as co-chair of the committee charged with planning the University's reconciliation activities. Also serving as co-chairs are Bob Agnew, Steve Kraftchick and John Stone of sociology, theology and medicine, respectively (see page 2).
But Frye said the committee soon began to consider reconciliation not just in terms of human conflict but also intellectual conflict in all its various forms-conflicting traditions, conflicting ideas, conflicting emotions. As he read more on the subject, Frye said he began to get more and more engaged.
The committee began planning a two-or-three-day symposium dedicated to reconciliation, with the idea of highlighting Emory's academic talent working in related disciplines. But it quickly became apparent that a few days would not be sufficient. "Once word got out about the symposium, we got all kinds of ideas about all kinds of things that didn't fit into the symposium," Frye said.
When it became apparent that all the excitement the idea had generated would not be contained within a few days, Frye and his committee asked President Bill Chace to christen 20002001 as the "Year of Reconciliation." And the rest, as they say, is reconciliatory history.
"It's been more than I expected," Frye said of the spectrum of reconciliation-themed events that have sprung up (see pp. 45). "The array of different things has been a little frightening. The question has been how to coordinate everything. The planning committee sought not to create or control, but to invite the campus to incorporate the theme into their normal activities, and [coordinating the results] has been very challenging."
As for any legacy the Year of Reconciliation leaves behind, Frye said it will arise from the quality of the conversation itself. Students and faculty will come together, discuss ideas and become more acquainted with each other, and he hopes such conversations will continue long after the year is over.
Chopp agrees. "For me, the process itself is the most important
thing," she said. "Bringing people together for the rigor and
leisure of academic conversation-this is what we do. We explore. It's more
important than a new curriculum or a new degree program."