American Academy of Arts and Sciences elects 12 members with UChicago ties

The newly elected class of members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences includes five UChicago faculty members and seven additional University alumni, including University Trustee Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65.

One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the American Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, global security and international affairs, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts and education.

Members of the 2015 class include recipients of the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; and Grammy, Emmy, Oscar and Tony awards. 

“We are honored to elect a new class of extraordinary women and men to join our distinguished membership,” said Don Randel, chair of the Academy’s Board of Directors. “Each new member is a leader in his or her field and has made a distinct contribution to the nation and the world. We look forward to engaging them in the intellectual life of this vibrant institution.” 

Since its founding in 1780, the Academy has elected leading “thinkers and doers” from each generation, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Margaret Mead and Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

The full list of the new members is available at

The UChicago faculty members and alumni elected to the academy are:

László Babai, the George and Elizabeth Yovovich Professor in Computer Science and Mathematics, specializes in complexity theory, algorithms, combinatorics, asymptotic group theory, and the many interactions among these fields, including problems of pure mathematics motivated by questions in the theory of computing. His honors include the international Gödel Prize (1993) in theoretical computer science for developing the concept of interactive proofs, which helped reshape the landscape of the theory of algorithms. In 1994 he was a plenary speaker at the quadrennial International Congress of Mathematicians, a coveted honor in the field. In an indication of potential applications of his foundational work to emerging technologies, so-called “Babai points” in n-dimensional grids have been widely cited in the area of mobile communications. Babai is one of the founders of the highly acclaimed study-abroad program “Budapest Semesters in Mathematics” (1985). In 2005 Babai launched the prominent open-access journal Theory of Computing. In the same year he received the University’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Matthew Gentzkow, the Richard O. Ryan Professor of Economics, studies empirical industrial organization and political economy, with a specific focus on media industries. His work, which has been covered by major national media, has appeared in the Journal of Political Economy, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the American Economic Review, and Econometrica. In 2014 Gentzkow received the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark Medal, given to an American economist under the age of 40 who has made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He has also received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and also has been awarded several National Science Foundation grants for research on media, and won a Faculty Excellence Award for teaching.

Françoise Meltzer, the Edward Carson Waller Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, Divinity School, and the College, studies contemporary critical theory and 19th-century French, English and German literature. Meltzer’s publications include Hot Property: The Stakes and Claims of Literary Originality (1994), For Fear of the Fire: Joan of Arc and the Limits of Subjectivity (2001) and Seeing Double: Baudelaire's Modernity (2011). With her colleague Jas Elsner, she edited Saints: Faith Without Borders (2011). She has edited Critical Inquiry since 1982. In 2006, Meltzer received the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) from the French government, the highest honor for academics in France. She began teaching at UChicago in 1975.

Ray Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor in Geophysical Sciences, has research interests that include the physics of climate, especially regarding the long-term evolution of planetary climates. Pierrehumbert is serving the current academic year as a King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor in Environmental Science at Stockholm University’s department of meteorology. The university will award him an honorary doctorate later this year. He was a co-author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Third Assessment (1997-2001). He has been recognized for his contributions to this work, for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Al Gore, “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.” Pierrehumbert also is the author of Principles of Planetary Climate, and co-editor of The Warming Papers: The Scientific Foundation for the Climate Change Forecast. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he also is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Philip J. Reny, the William C. Norby Professor of Economics is an economic theorist who focuses on auction theory, game theory and the theory of mechanism design. Among his most important contributions are his results on the existence of Nash equilibrium in discontinuous games and his work on information aggregation in double auctions. Reny serves on the board of editors for American Economic Journal: Microeconomics and served as the head editor of Journal of Political Economy. He became a fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory in 2012, a charter member of the Game Theory Society in 1999 and a fellow of the Econometric Society in 1996.

Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, will begin a three-year term as chairman of the University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees on May 28. Neubauer, the retired chairman of ARAMARK Corporation, has served as a trustee since 1992. He serves as chair of The University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, which launched in October 2014 with a goal of $4.5 billion. After earning his MBA, Neubauer took positions at Chase Manhattan Bank and PepsiCo. In 1979 he joined ARAMARK, a worldwide provider of food, hospitality and other professional services, as chief financial officer. He served for nearly three decades as ARAMARK’s chief executive officer and later board chairman. During his tenure the company grew revenues from $2 billion to $14 billion and employed more than 250,000 people in 23 countries. Neubauer and his wife Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer received the University of Chicago Medal in 2013. Awarded by the Board of Trustees, the University Medal recognizes distinguished service of the highest order to the University by an individual or a couple.

Other University of Chicago alumni who have been elected members of the Academy this year are: Jane C. Ginsburg, AB’76, AM’77; Richard Kurin, AM’74, PhD’81; Teresa A. Sullivan, AM’72, PhD’75; David S. Tatel, JD’66; Peter C. Wainwright, PhD’88; and Iván Werning, AM’99, PhD’02.