IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Jim Yong Kim

This is the last installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. Here’s Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, who saves the world but stays down to earth.

Emerging from stage left, he creeps in slowly, his black leather jacket barely visible through the shadows.  Only a voice can be heard: “And Whosoever Shall Be Found / Without The Soul For Getting Down / Must Stand And Face The Hounds Of Hell / And Rot Inside A Corpse’s Shell!” Then he appears, white socks pulled up to just below his kneecaps, jutting out to turn-flick-kick-pose.  And we’re off!  The crowd goes wild.  The late, great MJ returns from the dead in the form of JimKim, president of Dartmouth.  He bops, he wiggles, he jumps, he jerks his head from side to side with the awkwardly abrupt movement of a nerd-thlete turned temporary pop sensation.  He does the arm wave, he does the groin thrust, he does it all.

In short, Jim Yong Kim is last but certainly not least in this presidential caucus of ours.  He’s a tough guy to poke fun at because he’s too busy having his own fun—whether he’s performing as Michael Jackson in “Dartmouth Idol” or saving the world.  He might be the freshest face on the Ivy Presidential scene (he took office in July 2009), but he may also prove to be one of the best…Insert MJ face joke here…too soon?

Kim has had his fair share of Ivy experience: He received his undergraduate degree from Brown and both his M.D. and Anthropology Ph.D. from Harvard.  But JimKim is no higher-ed hack.

Back when he was still a med student, he teamed up with future BFF/world-saver Paul Farmer to work for Partners In Health, an organization that provided health services in Haiti and has now expanded out to other countries.  As a founding member—and later executive director of PIH—JimKim did stuff like fight AIDS and tuberculosis in areas already stricken by poverty and public health systems that ranked among the world’s crappiest, and personally led a campaign to cut the cost of medicine by 90% and develop healthcare protocols now adopted by around 36 countries.  This guy is literally a life-saver.

He went on to gigs like Director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization and Chair of the Department of Social Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.  Meanwhile, he remained BFFs with Farmer, with whom he taught Harvard undergrads and set up play-dates for their kids—who have now, in turn, apparently also become BFFs.

According to one of his former students, “Kim was his most inspirational instructor; he made you believe you could change the world.” Also, he clearly has a great sense of humor.  Also, he’s a genius.  Also, he was the quarterback of his High School football team.  How is this guy real?  Well, apparently his High School football team lost every single game they played his senior year.  Okay, so he is human after all.  But day-uummnn.

And yet some Fartmuths had to go and get things off to a bad start.  Kim—who was born in South Korea and immigrated with his family to the U.S. as a child—became the first Asian-American to lead an Ivy League school, and somehow this achievement turned into a racism-fest.  A popular Dartmouth email update, General Good Morning Message, responded to his appointment with comments such as:

Unless “Jim Yong Kim” means “I love Freedom” in Chinese, I don’t want anything to do with him. Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant.

After offending pretty much everybody, GGMM apologized for confusing racism with humor and promised not to do it anymore.  Then two other dudes made a video about JimKim, featuring a chorus with lines like: “Jim Yong Kim / See ya at the gym / Gettin’ huge.” So, also not funny but at least not offensive this time!

But like his alter-ego MJ, the show must go on for JimKim.  It sure must be an adjustment living in this strange Dartmouth culture, so it’s a good thing he’s a trained anthropologist prepared to take part in the native ritual dance:

I will have to be taught the Salty Dog Rag, and I will have to be taught a lot about the culture of Dartmouth. But heck, I’m an anthropologist. That’s what I do for a living.

Since he’s still in his first year, his compensation record isn’t available yet, but his predecessor James Wright was the lowest-paid prez in the Ivy League, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.  In his last year, Wright went home with a total of $603,983 ($500,000 plus $103,983 in benefits).  We’ll see how it pans out for JimKim, but after writing all these president posts, I can’t help but think he’s worth the big bucks.

And now for the last equation to evaluate JimKim’s point value in totally legitimate mathematical terms:

[Estimated earnings based on predecessor’s paycheck - (expected cost of haircut + halo upkeep) + Google hits + dance moves] / years as Ivy president =

[$603,983 - ($30 + $50) + 116,000+ $10,000,000,000] / 0.75 =

13,334,293,204 Ivy President Points!

Looks like we got ourselves a winner.

IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Drew Faust

This is the seventh installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. Here’s Harvard President Drew Faust, who may or may not have made a deal with the devil in exchange for knowledge.

It feels wrong to do anything but to cut to the chase and just start talking about money, seeing as that’s really the story of anything Harvard these days. Drew Faust doesn’t seem to have wanted to be the main character in this particular story, but them’s the breaks. I submit for the record this charming little snippet of dialogue:

Charlie Rose: Is anything different about the job than you expected?

Drew Faust: Well losing, as you said, $11 billion dollars of the endowment was certainly a surprise.

Drew Faust Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust is an academic’s breed of university president who was picked in large part for that reason after he who shalt not be named said that thing about women and science that time which shalt not be repeated (so yeah, the fact that Faust is woman is relevant here, too). But now, the fact that she’s not All About the Benjamins is what’s really relevant. This is really just the right time to say: “mo money, mo problems.”

So this is the inconvenient truth:

[Note: Graph removed at the request of Harvard Magazine, who are probably mad we made fun of them. The image is of a plummeting-downward graph.]

Doesn’t it totally look like Al Gore’s graph in reverse, lol! Except this isn’t the world, this is Harvard. (Yes, Harvard students, there is in fact a very distinct difference.)

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IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Shirley Tilghman

This is the sixth installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. Here’s Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman, who overcame the odds to become a highly successful scientist and Ivy president despite having been born in Canada.

Meet Shirley Tilghman, not to be confused with Wild West gunslinger Bill Tilghman. You can distinguish her by her Meryl Streep circa Devil Wears Prada hairdo, though she is also partial to green hair and sky-high mohawks. Tilghman can be spotted in “lucky orange shoes,” complemented by an orange blazer.

Tilghman knows what she likes: the movie All About Eve, and the jazzy jams of Duke Ellington. She knows, too, what she doesn’t like: improper word usage—including the use of “impact” as a verb—and when students Bicker (not the argument kind, the eating club exclusivity kind). Despite the resolute tenacity of club officers who hold their tradition of weeding out Princeton’s apparently existent lamebrains by a process too elite to go by the name of rush, Tilghman said :

I think the Bicker process is one that divides the student body, that it causes a lot of pain for students who are unsuccessful. If we could evolve into a system where there is a less divisive way for students to become members of eating clubs, that’s what I would like to see…

She may sometimes take a controversial stance, but Tilghman is full of ideas. To confront binge drinking on campus, she wrote in the Daily Princetonian:

I have often thought that the single most effective thing we could do to discourage high-risk drinking is to film students while they are drunk and then force them to watch the videos when they are cold sober the next day. It is not pretty.

And though some students found her approach to be “out of touch,” she has at least one vote: “I think it would be hilarious if we filmed drunk people and made them watch their videos. What a sick idea.”

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IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Ruth Simmons

This is the fifth installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. I’ll be covering each president one by one, in order of who gets the most green for tending to the Ivy. Here’s Brown President Ruth Simmons—part time T.V. star, full time woman.

Ruth Simmons is a whole lotta woman.

For one thing, she used to be the president of Smith College, which is woman central in more ways than one. After having been named Newsweek’s “Ms. Woman of the Year” and Time’s best college president in America, the size of her stardom can easily be classified as double-D. I mean, this glamorous lady is BFF-status with India.Arie, with whom she shares the quality of not being the average girl from your video.

Simmons appeared with Arie at this year’s BET Honors—“looking absolutely radiant in a stunning and sexy black dress (64 and sexy? You show ‘em, Ruth!)”—and elbow rubbing with P. Diddy, Queen Latifah, and Whitney Houston. She also picked up an award for her achievements as an educator, including becoming the first African-American president of an Ivy League School.

But by no means is that the first time she’s been on T.V. She channel changes from CNN to the Tavis Smiley Show. And Brown students stay tuned in. As the Brown Herald reported:

“She is famous—you can see her on TV. I am proud…”

Indeed, Simmons has garnered the overwhelming affection of Brown’s students, who describe her as “a power woman,” “the greatest person in the world,” and “reminds me of my grandma.”

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IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: David Skorton

This is the fourth installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. I’m covering each president one by one, in order of who gets the most green for tending to the Ivy. Now, here’s Cornell President David J. Skorton: doctor-administrator-Rod Burgundy impersonator.

Let’s begin with the word most used to describe David Skorton: jazzy.

He’s a jazzy man. He’s got a jazzy hat. He’s got a jazzy job, as president of Cornell University. He’s cool as Banana-Berry Skorton ice cream that can only be described as a “jazzy chocolate-based premium ice cream flavored with banana and a raspberry swirl”. He’s got a radio show, and that’s pretty jazzy. He plays the jazz flute. And all that jazz.

Can you dig it, man? With 4,463 Facebook friends and counting—how many web friends is too many?—it seems that the kids can dig it, even more than they apparently dig jazz itself. Indeed, Skorton’s got that “avuncular air of approachability” that wins him student perception points and Facebook friends. Yet there may well be a seedy underbelly to this friendly cardiologist, according to the Cornell Sun:

…many of Skorton’s more concrete initiatives are sentimental, more appropriate for a community center than an institution of higher learning.

The column also cites an editorial that criticized an email Skorton sent for Martin Luther King Day, inviting students to bring soup to the needy:

We all love soup, but it’s not entirely clear how some cauldron-sized portions of butternut squash bisque are going to solve the issues Dr. King strove to overcome.

More rich broth on Skorton after the jump!

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IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Richard Levin

This is the third installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. I’m covering each president one by one, in order of who gets the most green for tending to the Ivy. Here’s Yale President Richard Levin, the anti-social nerd turned cross continental titan.

He’s not a smooth talker, but Richard Levin gets the job done. As he told Charlie Rose:

“If you hiccup in China or if there’s a problem in Brussels, you feel it in the United States and vice versa.”

Levin loves China, and vice versa. He’s been there at least twelve times in the past eight years, he goes for camp every summer to play dodgeball with other resident university presidents, and he’s built ties between Yale and Chinese institutions. He may well be a bigger celebrity there than in the United States, or even on his own campus. The Yale Daily News has characterized Levin as a Chinese “rock star.” But upon his fifteen anniversary as university president in 2008—Levin is the longest-serving president in the Ivy League—the YDN also reported that:

When asked about their view of Levin in interviews this fall, undergraduates tended to offer something about his affection for China, and perhaps a reference to the bling necklace he wears at Commencement. But beyond that, the closest contact they said they have had with Levin was when they shook his hand in the receiving line at Beinecke Library after the Freshman Address. Some students said they wouldn’t even recognize him on campus.

The YDN went on to quote one student who wished “he had a more human face to the student body.” Read the rest of this entry »

IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Amy Gutmann

This is the second installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. I’m covering each president one by one, in order of who gets the most green for tending to the Ivy. And now, here’s University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, the fair-haired political-philosopher queen.

Watch out, hipsters, there’s a new lady in the leggings aisle at American Apparel. And as a Penn junior confirmed, students “generally find her pretty/hot considering she’s almost 60 years old.”

And to be more direct, The DP’s Thirty-Fourth Street Magazine addresses Gutmann: “You academic MILF, you!! Giggity giggity!”

Sure, she’s blonde, she’s buff, she’s glamorous and as one senior observes, “she is insanely skinny, and can be found at the school gym at any time.” Also there’s the running Penn gig, helping to develop the theory of deliberative democracy, eating free tacos, and hitting the spot—as it were—as Chris Brown Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the School of Arts and Sciences.

No, it isn’t easy being Amy Gutmann, especially when you factor in the extra time and effort it takes to refer to yourself in the third person:

“She’s a busy woman. It’s a busy life…I chill out at basketball games and football games. I go to all the home games — all the basketball and football home games — unless I have to be out of town.”

Alas, one woman can’t have it all, and so it goes with the third person narration. As for students, many people call her “A-Gut,” which seems an incongruously gross entrails-sounding name for a leader they lust for. Others just call her Amy. When asked, she suggested “her eminence.”

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IvyGate Presidential Fame Caucus: Lee Bollinger

This is the first installment of a series studying the persona of each Ivy League president—their bank accounts, their haircuts, and the extent to which they’re known and loved. I’ll be covering each president one by one, in order of who gets the most green for tending to the Ivy. To begin, here’s Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, the white-haired knight of the first amendment, often known to remain locked up in his ivory tower.

They call him Prezbo, and he kinda likes it.

What honest to goodness free speech scholar turned university president wouldn’t get a thrill from bright young things all speaking free all about him? As Bollinger told students at a fireside chat at the start of this academic year:

I’ve always assumed it’s not hostile, and therefore I like it. Anything that’s not hostile, I like… Feel free to use it.

His middle initial “C” stands for Carroll, so all things considered, Prezbo got off easy.

And that’s not the only charm in the life of Carroll Co. He’s the fourth-highest paid president of any American university, according to the latest count from the Chronicle of Higher Education. With a salary of $1,380,035, uncle money bags makes more bank than the next highest paid Ivy League president, Penn’s Amy Gutmann—and they have Trumps up in there. (His actual pay is $878,975 plus benefits, including credits for retirement).

More hard and soft data after the jump!

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