Modern CAAS Presidents

Founders of the Connecticut Academy of Arts & Sciences: Five-Minute Profiles

Fred Robinson, served 1980-1984
H. Catherine Skinner, served 1984-1994

Presented by Gregory H. Tignor, President, CAAS

In my presidency of CAAS, I’ve been determined to pay tribute to the Academy’s Founding Fathers. During past meetings, we listened to the contributions of Daniel Webster, Timothy Dwight, Benjamin Silliman, and Ezra Stiles. 

Today, we are taking a break from a recounting of the contributions of past generations to celebrate two living CAAS stalwarts from the Modern Era, 1980-1990.

My hope is that, in this brief pause from early history, we might gain a greater appreciation of the more recent struggles to maintain the intellectual, social, scientific, and artistic values that are at the core of this academic society.

Each of today’s living past presidents being celebrated at this meeting has contributed unique footprints in the pathway of excellence that is the hallmark of this long enduring academic society.

In an era of significant social turmoil, an English Professor, a medievalist whose publications focused on bibliographies and guides to Old English assumed the presidency.  But, his herculean efforts turned to building a community audience larger than that of the immediate academic surroundings. 

To that end, Professor Fred C. Robinson, invited, for example, a physician and a local community developer, as well as the curator of the Ezra Pound archives of the Beineke Library.  At the October 15, 1981 meeting, sixty people attended and there were thirty-three nominations for new members. 

It’s my hope today that we can follow in his illustrious footsteps by approximating that kind of attendance for his celebrations. 

We welcome Fred C. Robinson, Past President of CASS on this 9th day of September in 2014.

It was at this juncture, in 1985, upon Professor Frederick Robinson’s retirement from the president’s office, that the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences elected its first and, to this date, only woman president, H. Catherine W. Skinner. 

In her nine years as president, Dr Skinner oversaw the best traditions of the Academy in meetings and publication, as well as in grooming some other aspects to insure the Academy’s economic survival at the end of the twentieth century.

Dr. Skinner focused on the increase and diversity of membership, on the one hand, and on publications on the other hands. 

She followed the Academy’s original mandate of incorporating membership to include both academic and nonacademic fields.  Like her predecessor, she encouraged more graduate students and younger participants.  She increased the numbers of women and members from different areas in Connecticut at the regular meetings. 

Under President Skinner’s leadership, the format for regular Academy meetings was changed to include a social hour and a dinner to precede the evening’s lecture.  Under her leadership, the Academy sought topics to interest a diverse audience with speakers from the sciences, areas of public policy and current affairs. 

Meetings included representatives of various CT Universities.  Indeed, members from these Universities  joined the governing body of the CAAS council although the President of the Academy remained Yale-affiliated.

Professor Skinner still brings her same enthusiasm and vigor to the Academy through her regular attendance at Academy events and wise council to sitting Presidents. 

Submitted by 

Gregory H. Tignor

President,  CAAS