‘Reputation Always Lags Behind Reality By Several Years’: A Conversation With Touro College’s Future PresidentWednesday, October 21st, 2009
At 94, Dr. Bernard Lander, Touro College’s founder and president for 39 years, is finally ready to pass on the leadership mantle.
Last month Touro announced that Dr. Alan Kadish, formerly professor of medicine at Northwestern University, will succeed Dr. Lander as president in the near future with Dr. Lander set to become the university’s chancellor. Meanwhile, Dr. Kadish will serve as the college’s senior provost and chief operating officer.
Dr. Kadish, born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, received his medical degree from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and postdoctoral medical training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School) and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Bergenfield, New Jersey with his wife and four children.
The Jewish Press recently spoke with Dr. Kadish.
The Jewish Press: Northwestern University is one of the best universities in the country. What made you leave that institution to come to Touro?
Dr. Kadish: I believe, and I came here with the belief, that Touro is on its way to becoming an outstanding academic institution. It’s a relatively young school but we have over 17,000 students in 29 schools. There are outstanding faculty members. It takes time to develop a reputation, but what I saw when I visited Touro was evidence of academic quality throughout the institution which far exceeded its reputation.
Of New York’s two Jewish colleges – Yeshiva University (YU) and Touro College – Touro has a reputation among some for being the less “serious” of the two. How do you regard this characterization?
I don’t think that calling something serious or not serious is really useful. What I would say is that Touro and YU have different goals. YU has a particular philosophy, [Torah U'mada], that it tries to inculcate in its students and it directs its education accordingly. And that’s great.
But Touro feels there’s a role for another kind of education. In fact, the kind of education that Touro offers is really the kind of education most universities in the world offer. Most universities in the world don’t promulgate a particular political philosophy, at least not on paper. They provide education, and that’s Touro’s philosophy. We provide education.
Perhaps the fact that Touro’s education in some of its schools is more goal- oriented rather than philosophically motivated leads people to perceive it as less serious. But we certainly don’t view it that way.
How about Touro’s reputation, in certain circles, for providing a decent rather than a great education?
I think that reputation always lags behind reality by several years.
If you look, for example, at Touro’s undergraduate colleges right now, these are actually outstanding institutions with tremendous faculty and world-class deans educated at Ivy League schools who have tremendous commitment to education. I think our goal in the short term actually is not so much to change all that much in these institutions, but rather to get the word out.
It’s also true that because Touro is such a complex institution with many components to it, sometimes there can be some spillover effect [reputation-wise] if one component is not working so well. That’s why one of my goals is to increase quality throughout Touro.
What are some of your other goals?
The first goal, like I said, is to continue to strengthen the academic quality throughout the institution. It’s a large institution with 29 different schools, and there’s excellent education throughout. But there are some places where it can be made better.
A second goal is to solidify the health sciences programs. We want to increase integration and coordination among these programs to help cross-fertilize ideas and educational opportunities.
And a third goal that Dr. Lander has, which I fully support, is to try to help grow the international programs at Touro, which he views as outposts of Touro and Yiddishkeit for a variety of different communities throughout the world.
Any other goals?
No, those will take a couple of years!