Joy Connolly Appointed President of the American Council of Learned Societies


The Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies has named Joy Connolly as the Council’s 12th President, succeeding Pauline Yu, who will be retiring in June after 16 years as president. The appointment is effective July 1, 2019.

Connolly currently serves as Interim President and Distinguished Professor of Classics at The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY). She has served as Provost and Senior Vice President of The Graduate Center and as Dean for the Humanities at New York University. An eminent scholar of Greek and Roman literature and political thought, she also studies their transformation in the modern era. At CUNY, Connolly has emphasized The Graduate Center’s commitment to innovative education and the pursuit and circulation of knowledge for the public good.

“In choosing the president to lead ACLS into its second century, we sought a scholar and leader who would speak to how the humanities matter urgently for humanity, linking our past with the present, guiding us toward our shared future,” said William C. Kirby, chair of the ACLS Board of Directors. “In Joy Connolly, we have found not only a scholar of the first rank who has led important institutions of higher learning but also someone—to use her words—‘who grasps the complex processes involved in making the judgments we make as citizens.’ Her passion for the wide and deep centrality of understanding our cultures, our languages, our norms, and our mores is evident in her active life as a teacher and as a leader.”

Nicola Courtright, vice chair of the ACLS board, added, “Joy Connolly, who cares deeply about people engaged in learning from every background and station in life, brings the rich capacity of the humanities to bear upon vital educational issues of our time.” The Presidential Search Committee was co-chaired by Kirby and Courtright and included ACLS Directors James Grossman, Michele Moody-Adams, Carl Pforzheimer, Elaine Sisman, and ACLS Grants Officer and Budget Analyst Kelly Buttermore. Shelly Storbeck of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, LP assisted in the search.

Connolly has brought The Graduate Center to the forefront of innovation in graduate education through a number of initiatives. Earlier this year, she secured $2.27 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to transform doctoral education. One of the projects the grant is funding is an ambitious PublicsLab, which will coordinate and amplify the public-facing scholarship of GC students and faculty. She has served on the board of an ACLS member society (the Society for Classical Studies) as well on the board of The Journal of the History of Ideas.

“Research in the humanities and social sciences,” noted Connolly, “sustains the knowledge and capacities necessary to maintain a robust and ever more inclusive democracy. I am honored and thrilled at the prospect of leading the American Council of Learned Societies, which supports outstanding work in these fields. Building on Pauline Yu's success, I look forward to advancing ACLS's mission to advocate for the value of research among diverse publics, to make more resources available to scholars, and to work with ACLS's over 70 member organizations on the complex challenges that face us today as scholars, teachers, and citizens.”

“It’s been an unbelievable privilege for me to be able to work with our superb staff and valuable partners over the past many years,” noted Pauline Yu, president of ACLS for 16 years, “and I’m thrilled to welcome Joy to the presidency. She’s an accomplished scholar with an already impressive record of leadership. She’s deeply committed to our mission of advancing humanistic studies and possesses the energy, open mind, and creativity necessary to confront what lies ahead. She’s the perfect choice to take ACLS into its next century.”

“ACLS plays a central role in advancing the humanities in America, with its deep relationships with scholarly societies and its extraordinary network of scholars that support the Council’s work, in the academy and beyond university walls,” noted Mariët Westermann, Executive Vice President of Program and Research at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, “With great admiration for Joy’s vision and determination, in her previous positions we have supported her efforts to connect humanistic scholarship with contemporary societal challenges, and her advocacy of partnerships between community colleges and universities that expand access to liberal arts education. We are simply delighted that we will be able to continue to work with her as she leads ACLS into its second century.”

James J. O’Donnell, University Librarian and Arizona State University and former chair of the ACLS board noted, “Joy Connolly has shown that the best scholarship can be the foundation for engaged, inclusive, and passionate leadership. With her at the helm, ACLS will further broaden and strengthen its support for scholars while making scholars’ contributions heard and seen in the critical debates of our time.”

Connolly earned an A.B. (magna cum laude) from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Classical Studies. After serving as an assistant professor of classics at the University of Washington in Seattle and at Stanford University, she joined the classics department at New York University, where she reached the rank of full professor. At NYU, she served as director of the College Core Curriculum, a comprehensive arts and sciences program required for most NYU undergraduates, and then as dean for humanities, where she oversaw nearly 400 faculty members in over 30 departments and research institutes.

A holder of fellowships at the Center for Human Values at Princeton and the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study, Connolly is the author or editor of three books, over 30 articles, and nearly 40 book reviews. She serves on multiple editorial boards, including The Journal for the History of Ideas, and she has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Village Voice, The Times Literary Supplement, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bookforum and The Nation. Her c.v. is available here.

Kirby expressed the Council’s profound appreciation for Pauline Yu’s 16 years of service: “During Pauline’s tenure, ACLS more than doubled the number of research fellowships it awards, tripled the dollar value of awards to scholars, and increased its endowment by 110 percent. Under Pauline’s leadership, ACLS initiated programs that reach scholars around the world and across the realms of academic disciplines, deepened the public’s engagement with scholarship, and established directions for its next century of service to the academy and society. The ACLS board thanks her on behalf of the constellation of scholars, teachers, and—not the least—students who have benefited from her passion to champion and support innovation and scholarship in the humanities.”  


Formed a century ago, ACLS is a nonprofit federation of 75 scholarly organizations. As the preeminent representative of American scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences, ACLS holds a core belief that knowledge is a public good. As such, ACLS strives to promote the circulation of humanistic knowledge throughout society. In addition to stewarding and representing its member organizations, ACLS employs its $140 million endowment and $35 million annual operating budget to support scholarship in the humanities and social sciences and to advocate for the centrality of the humanities in the modern world.