Dorothy Ross, Arthur Lovejoy Professor Emerita of History, has made a generous donation to the History Department. Her gift establishes the “New Directions Fund,” an endowment to support graduate student research and conference travel. The donation testifies to Dorothy’s extraordinary commitment to the department, to graduate education, and to the history profession—commitments that unite her personal, intellectual, and institutional trajectories. It is her hope that others will follow her lead and contribute to the fund, further expanding its impact on graduate education.
Dorothy once remarked that the most rewarding aspect of teaching at Hopkins came from her engagement with graduate students. If it was rewarding for her, it was even more meaningful to those of us who experienced her mentorship—inspirational by virtue of her fearsome intellect, and generous in her sustained and serious engagement with her students’ work. Her donation perpetuates that personal dedication to graduate mentorship.
Dorothy’s gift also builds on her intellectual commitments. Although her scholarship ranged widely, Dorothy was above all a historian of the social sciences. Her work on historical writing, in particular, was revelatory, searching; no one studied the history of our intellectual disciplines with more penetrating insight. If her scholarship transformed our understanding of history’s past, this gift commits to its future.
Finally, the gift sustains Dorothy’s commitment to our department and our university. Johns Hopkins was (as anyone who took Dorothy’s intellectual history seminar well knows!) the first American university to produce PhDs; graduate training is in the university’s DNA. Even as undergraduate education has taken a more central role in recent decades, graduate mentorship remains one of the university’s greatest strengths and one of the department’s primary commitments. Her donation thus perpetuates that foundational mission.
One more link between this gift and Dorothy’s career bears mention. Dorothy chose not to name the endowment after herself, calling it instead the “New Directions Fund” to celebrate the future research it would fund and to encourage its expansion through additional donations. Although Dorothy says she had no such connection in mind, the name she has chosen for the fund happens to echo an important book, New Directions in American Intellectual History (1979), co-edited by Hopkins historian John Higham, himself a leading scholar of the historical profession. Dorothy’s characteristically brilliant, wide-ranging essay in that volume explored the scholarship of J.G.A. Pocock—another of Hopkins’s great intellectual historians—applying his insights on the tradition of civic humanism to U.S. intellectual history, and weaving it together with the (then) more-studied intellectual traditions of liberalism and Protestant millennialism.
Dorothy’s was the only essay in that volume written by a woman—just one sign of her path breaking role in the profession—and it was a signal of her stature in the field when she was appointed professor of history at Johns Hopkins some years later, replacing John Higham and becoming John Pocock’s colleague.
The New Directions Fund will continue to play an important role at Hopkins as the department continues to build upon its venerable legacy of graduate training. It also celebrates our more recent legacy, pioneered by Dorothy herself, of expanding the profession as it develops in new directions.
–Professor Francois Furstenberg