A Focus on Humanitarian Efforts
To recognize the generosity of Henry J. Leir, H79, and the Leir Charitable Foundations, whose partnership with Tufts goes back four decades, Tufts has named one of its esteemed academic centers the Henry J. Leir Institute for Human Security.
At an event this fall celebrating the naming of the institute, Tufts President Anthony Monaco spoke of Henry Leir, a successful businessman and generous philanthropist who died in 1998. The institute’s mission “reflects and honors Henry Leir’s deep commitment to relieving human suffering and advancing peace and prosperity,” Monaco said. “Leir was always keenly interested in examining the political, economic, and social problems of his time, and in envisioning solutions that would improve human well-being and create greater worldwide prosperity through economic and political cooperation.”
Leir’s connection with Tufts began in the mid-1970s, when his friend Jean Mayer became president. “These two European expatriates shared the qualities of keen intellect and passionate vision, and Leir became a staunch supporter of Mayer’s vision for Tufts,” Monaco said. Leir’s philanthropy benefited, among others, the Fletcher School, the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the Tufts European Center in Talloires, France.
After Leir’s death, the Leir Charitable Foundations carried on his humanitarian vision for world prosperity and peace, supporting the institute since its founding in 2000. The institute, Monaco said, has emerged as “a leading center of excellence, known for its cutting-edge research, education, and policy engagement in addressing global challenges with a focus on the well-being of all human beings.” Subsequent gifts brought world-class scholars to Tufts. Today, the institute has four endowed professorships, divided between the Fletcher and Friedman schools. Three are fully funded—and one, the Rosenberg Professor, is partially funded—by the Leir Charitable Foundations.
The field of human security addresses threats that harm individuals and communities, including poverty, violent conflict, pandemics, famine, and migration. That broad domain, by necessity, “brings together in one discipline and in one center a chance to truly improve the human condition,” said James Stavridis, F83, FG84, dean of the Fletcher School and Charles Francis Adams/Raytheon Chair. Of particular importance, he said, is the intellectual vigor that comes with four endowed professorships. “For schools the size of Fletcher and Friedman, this is a truly significant contribution.”
One of the professors, Karen Jacobsen of the Fletcher School, leads the Refugees in Towns project to better understand how to integrate migrating populations into urban centers. The most important problem that global migration presents “is not how to stop it,” she said. The question is “how we can absorb migration, how we can make migration a phenomenon that benefits everybody, that builds peace, that builds economic and political and social development, and where we can benefit from the opportunities that migration presents to us.”
Daniel Maxwell, a Leir Professor at the Friedman School, pointed to South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, where millions of people are at risk of starvation because of armed conflict. “We have to think of conflict management and resolution as a key component of dealing with famine.” Providing effective humanitarian aid requires reconsidering how to operate in regions where conflict is long-lasting, he added. “We have got to take a much more holistic view of crises to get away from a narrow focus on technical issues, and think much more broadly about the politics of food scarcity.”
Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School and Jean Mayer Chair in Nutrition, emphasized the Leir Institute’s role as a catalyst for groundbreaking research and scholarship, and pragmatic solutions. He said the center “is about deconstructing science, coming up with the answers, training future leaders, and really going out and making a difference.”
Meet the Professors
Henry J. Leir Professor in Global Migration at the Fletcher School, director of the Refugees and Forced Migration Program at the Feinstein International Center
Jacobsen’s research explores urban displacement and global migration systems, with a focus on the livelihoods and financial resilience of migrants and refugees.
Henry J. Leir Professor in International Humanitarian Studies at the Fletcher School
A medical anthropologist focused on Latin America, Theidon researches topics such as political violence, transitional justice, humanitarian and post-conflict interventions, gender studies, and drug policy.
Henry J. Leir Professor in Food Security at the Friedman School, program director of the MA in Humanitarian Assistance program at Friedman and the Fletcher School, research director at the Feinstein International Center
Maxwell leads research on food security and livelihoods in complex emergencies and has recently focused on the re-emergence of famines in the 21st century and the politics of analyzing and declaring famine.
Irwin H. Rosenberg Professor in Nutrition and Human Security at the Friedman School, director of the Feinstein International Center
Much of Gottlieb’s work has focused on improving disaster assistance as well as humanitarian and transition programs promoting economic recovery.