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October 28, 2002

Emory shows AAU Southern hospitality

By Michael Terrazas

Emory played host to the presidents of the nation’s top research universities, Oct. 20–22, when the Association of American Universities (AAU) held one of its semiannual meetings on campus.

The AAU ( is an association of 61 American and two Canadian schools, representing the elite of research universities in North America. It was founded in 1900 by 14 PhD-granting institutions, and Emory joined its ranks in 1995. Each year the presidents of member institutions meet twice, once in Washington in the spring and once at a member’s campus in the fall.

As Emory was invited—membership is available only through invitation—to join the AAU shortly after he was inaugurated, President Bill Chace quickly submitted the University’s name into the queue of schools waiting to host the fall meeting. Some years later, Emory’s turn arrived.

“I wanted the other institutions to see this school; I think it is true that Emory is not as well known in all areas of the country as we might be,” Chace said. “This was a wonderful opportunity for these leaders to see the campus, to meet the people and to see what we’re doing here.”

The discussion agenda for AAU meetings is confidential, and admittance to most related events is limited strictly to the presidents (or chancellors, as they are called at some institutions). But, between nights spent at the Emory Conference Center, the group toured the campus, attended a reception at the new Math & Science Center, had dinner at the Miller-Ward Alumni House and were shuttled over to a reception at the Carter Center to greet newly minted Nobel laureate and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

“The meeting was a stunning success,” Chace said. “Everyone enjoyed being at Emory, seeing its facilities and working through the day-and-a-half of meetings.”

Chace said the highlight for many of the presidents was meeting the Carters, and all of them were greatly impressed by Emory’s campus and its new facilities such as the Math & Science Center and the Whitehead Building. And, Chace added, “They loved the Southern hospitality.”

Emory’s joining the AAU had long been a dream of former President James Laney, Chace told the Faculty Council in its Oct. 22 meeting. When the University was invited to join, the criterion was that its research productivity—measured rigorously by a range of indicators, Chace said—be at least as great as the 50th percentile of AAU membership at the time. Commenting that the trend in American higher education is toward public institutions, Chace told the council that Emory may be the last private university invited to
join the AAU “for quite some time.”