Statement from Chancellor Matthew Goldstein on the Philip Merrill Award to CUNY Chairman Benno Schmidt

“Chairman Schmidt has been an energetic and dedicated advocate of a liberal arts education that engages and challenges students. Most notably, his service as chair includes oversight of the University’s four-year master plans, which are submitted to and approved by the State of New York and detail CUNY’s academic goals for the coming four years. The three master plans developed under Chairman Schmidt’s leadership and approved by the Board of Trustees have emphasized the strengthening of a core liberal arts curriculum as the foundation of the University’s revitalization. His distinguished career demonstrates and this important award recognizes Chairman Schmidt’s consistent and effective work for the advancement of a robust liberal arts education for all students.”

Benno Schmidt to Receives Philip Merrill Award

Prize Recognizes Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education

July 29, 2010

ACTA Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 29, 2010) — Benno Schmidt, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university in the world, will receive the sixth annual Philip Merrill Award for Outstanding Contributions to Liberal Arts Education.

The prize, sponsored by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is the only one in the nation to honor those who have made an extraordinary contribution to the advancement of liberal arts education, core curricula, and the teaching of Western civilization and American history.

“For over 30 years, Benno Schmidt has been at the forefront of higher education reform and the advancement of a strong liberal arts education as a scholar, an administrator and now a trustee,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “At CUNY, the efforts he has spearheaded and continues to spearhead have been nothing short of spectacular.”

Under Schmidt’s leadership, CUNY has undergone what is widely seen as an academic renaissance. Before joining the CUNY Board, he led Mayor Rudolf Giuliani’s task force on revitalizing the CUNY system. The Task Force’s recommendations to end open enrollment and raise academic standards have helped the Board and the Chancellor make the CUNY system more competitive on a national level.

Schmidt was president of Yale University from 1986 to 1992, where he was known for his outspoken defense of freedom of expression and liberal education. Before joining Yale, he was the dean of Columbia University Law School where, in 1973, he became, at age 29, one of the youngest tenured professors in Columbia’s history.

Schmidt will accept the Merrill Award at a November 5 gala dinner at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. Launched in 2005, the award honors the late Philip Merrill, a publisher, entrepreneur, philanthropist, member of several university boards and distinguished public servant who served six presidential administrations. Merrill, who served on ACTA’s founding National Council, focused his philanthropic efforts on improving the quality of higher education.

The past recipients of the Merrill Award are, in chronological order, Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University; Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University; Gertrude Himmelfarb, professor emeritus of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York; Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of History and Classics at Yale University; and KC Johnson, Professor of history at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is an independent non-profit dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability. Since its founding in 1995, ACTA has counseled boards, educated the public and published reports about such issues as good governance, historical literacy, core curricula, the free exchange of ideas and accreditation in higher education. For further information, visit or

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847 as The Free Academy, the University’s 23 institutions include 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves 260,000 academic credit students and 269,808 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program for 32,500 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. More than one million visitors and two million page views are served each month by, the University’s website.