The Thomas Jefferson Award honors an Emory faculty
member or administrator for significant service in the areas of
teaching, scholarship, University advancement, community service
and work with students.
With those criteria in mind, Eleanor Main, professor of political
science and director of the Division of Educational Studies, is
an ideal recipient of the 2003 award.
“I was honored,” Main said, reflecting on being informed
of the honor earlier this month by President Bill Chace and interim
Provost Woody Hunter. “I’ve been here since 1969, so
I’ve known a lot of the people who have received the award
and I’ve had a lot of respect for the recipients.”
Since coming to Emory 34 years ago, Main has made her presence felt
in a variety of ways. She created the political science internship
program and led it for 16 years. She has chaired the political science
department and served in administrative positions both in Emory
College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In 2001, she
took over as director of the Division of Educational Studies.
She has served on dozens of University governance bodies and committees,
including the Emory Women’s Caucus, which became the President’s
Commission on the Status of Women.
Off campus, she is a founding member of the state’s Department
of Juvenile Justice, having been appointed by former Gov. Zell Miller.
Over the last 28 years, Main has served many governmental committees,
commissions and task forces.
“In wide-ranging activities for more than three decades, you
have touched nearly every seam of the fabric of Emory’s community,”
Chace said in his Commencement remarks when presenting the Jefferson
Award to Main.
“Shouldering more than your share of University and public
citizenship, you have often sacrificed personal interests for the
sake of others,” Chace continued. “You have served as
confidant, counselor and friend to hundreds from the humble to the
powerful. Above all you have manifested intense honesty and passionate
conviction whose name is always to ensure the excellence and integrity
of Emory University.”
“Those words were very nice and very meaningful,” Main
As research has become more prominent at universities, Main said
service has suffered. She, in fact, doesn’t like the term
“service,” preferring “professional responsibility.”
The end of the school year isn’t bringing Main a lot of rest.
Over the summer, she will work on a funding proposal for a conference
next spring titled “From Brown To Bollinger.” The 1954
Brown v. Board of Education case ended segregation in public schools,
and the 50th anniversary of that decision is next year. Lee Bollinger
is the former president of the University of Michigan and current
president of Columbia University. He is listed as the defendant
in two cases to be heard by the Supreme Court this summer that will
determine the constitutionality of Michigan’s affirmative
Main said both cases deal with access to education. She wants the
conference to explore Brown’s successes, failures and unintended
consequences as well as the fallout from the Michigan decision,
which will have repercussions across the country’s educational
system no matter what the verdict.
Also this summer, over the last half of June, Main will travel to
Dublin, Ireland, with her twin sister Jeannie for the Special Olympics
World Summer Games. Main’s sister works for Special Olympics,
and this is the fourth time Main has worked as her assistant.
“It’s different from what I do here,” Main said.
“And it’s an incredible feeling when you see all those
young people walk into the stadium.”
It’s also another way Main gives back to her community.