Skip to content

A renowned scholar, political scientist, and keen observer of American society, Dr. Robert D. Putnam will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and will deliver our Commencement Address.

Dr. Ron Putnam
Professor Dr. Ronald Putnam

Dr. Putnam is the Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, having retired from active teaching in May 2018. Across his long career, he has collaborated with U.S. and world leaders, taught thousands of students, and been a vocal and tireless advocate for building American communities that sustain and empower their members. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2006 Dr. Putnam received the Skytte Prize, the world’s highest accolade for a political scientist. In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal — the nation’s highest honor for contributions to the humanities — for “deepening our understanding of community in America,” and in 2018 the International Political Science Association awarded him the Karl Deutsch Award for cross-disciplinary research.

Dr. Putnam has written fifteen books, including the seminal “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” one of the most-cited social science works in the last half-century. His most recent bestseller, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” chronicled the growing class gap among American youth. He has just completed a study of broad 20th-century American economic, social, political, and cultural trends, entitled “The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.”

At Harvard, he has served as Dean of the Kennedy School, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. He co-founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners (including President Obama) to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal. His counsel has been sought by national and grassroots leaders on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic, including Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron.