Skip to content

Alumna and Faculty Member Among Newest Inductees to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Congratulations to two of the newest inductees to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences—Sherrilyn Ifill ’84 and Professor of Astronomy Debra Elmegreen.

Sherrilyn Ifill ’84 and Professor of Astronomy Debra ElmegreenPhoto: Courtesy of NAACP-LDF; Walter Garschagen

Sherrilyn Ifill ’84, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was commended by the Academy for her “outstanding achievements in the areas of public affairs, business, and administration,” and her work in advancing racial justice.

The Academy lauded Professor Elmegreen for her “distinguished record of leadership.” She follows in the footsteps of Professor Maria Mitchell, Vassar’s first faculty member and the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. It seems fitting that Elmegreen serves as the Professor of Astronomy on the Maria Mitchell Chair.

The induction ceremony was held on October 12 in Cambridge, MA, with Vassar’s President Elizabeth Bradley in attendance.

Ifill said she was “truly honored” to be inducted into the Academy. “The entire day was one ‘pinch me’ moment after another,” she said. “I am looking forward to learning more about the work of the Academy and being an active member.”

Elmegreen said she was “humbled to have been inducted into an organization whose members include Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Darwin, Albert Einstein, Michelle Obama, Paul McCartney, and yes, Maria Mitchell…The creation of the Academy reflects a profound insight on the part of our founding fathers, who thought it was important to preserve appreciation of the arts and sciences at the same time they were thinking about founding our country…”

Founded in 1780, the Academy “honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.”

Read more about the work of Sherrilyn Ifill and Elmegreen’s discovery of Little Blue Dots dwarf galaxies.