In this new series, Graduate Center President Bill Kelly explores great minds that have shaped our cultural landscape. Over the course of the year, he will speak, one-on-one, with a diverse group of vital contemporary thinkers, artists, and visionaries who have indelibly impacted the fields in which they work. This debut evening features Patti Smith whose body of work encompasses poetry, fiction, essay, music, film, photography, and more.
William P. Kelly
William P. Kelly was appointed president of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York on July 1, 2005. From 1998 through June 2005, he served as the Graduate Center's provost and senior vice president, a tenure that was marked by the recruitment of a remarkable cadre of internationally renowned scholars to the school's faculty.
A distinguished American literature scholar and an expert on the works of James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Kelly's books include Plotting America's Past: Fenimore Cooper and the Leatherstocking Tales (Southern Illinois University Press), and a work in progress, Exhibiting Nature: Scientific Culture and The American Museum of Natural History.
His numerous articles and reviews have appeared in a broad range of publications including the New York Times Book Review, The American Scholar, and the Journal of Western History, and he is the editor of the Random House edition of The Selected Works of Washington Irving and the Oxford University Press edition of The Pathfinder.
Dr. Kelly graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1971, where he won the David Bowers Prize in American Studies. He was named Outstanding Graduate Student in English at Indiana University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. Dr. Kelly also holds a diploma in intellectual history from Cambridge University and in 1980 received a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where he subsequently became visiting professor at the University of Paris.
He was also executive director of the CUNY/Paris Exchange Program and, in 2003, was named Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the French Ministry of Education in recognition of his contributions to Franco-American educational and cultural relations.
Patti Smith is a singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album, "Horses." Called the "Godmother of Punk", she integrated the beat poetry performance style with three-chord rock. Smith's most widely known song is "Because the Night," which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978.
In 2005, Patti Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and in 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Singer-songwriter Patti Smith says she still believes in her song People Have the Power, though she feels society has become "disenfranchised" by the "impenetrable walls" of government and corporations. The punk icon heralds political activist Ralph Nader's philosophy on the spirit of relentless protest: be prepared to lose, but make certain you are counted.