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    MAY 25, 2006
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Newcombe named fellow of the American Academy of Arts And Sciences


Psychology's Nora Newcombe has been elected a fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the first Temple faculty member to be so honored.

Newcombe, the James H. Glackin Distinguished Faculty Fellow and a professor in the psychology department, joins 195 scholars, scientists, artists and civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders from 24 states and 13 countries elected in the academy's 2006 Class of Fellows.

"I am thrilled and sort of surprised," Newcombe said of her selection. "I knew I had been nominated, but I also knew it can take a long time to be elected, or that you might never be elected. I wasn't really thinking about it; it just came out of nowhere."

A developmental psychologist, Newcombe is being joined in the academy's 2006 Class of Fellows by such luminaries as former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts; Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and Rockefeller University President Sir Paul Nurse; the chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton; actor and director Martin Scorsese; choreographer Meredith Monk; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; New York Stock Exchange chairman Marshall Carter; former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel; Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet; New Yorker editor David Remnick; and American Express Co. chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault.

"I know the kind of people in my discipline who were already members of the academy, so I felt honored enough to be joining their company," she said. "But seeing you're being elected with Bill Clinton and George Bush, Martin Scorsese and these other public figures, it's quite exciting and, well, that really adds to the honor."

A member of Temple's psychology faculty since 1981, Newcombe said that being the first Temple faculty member elected to the academy was "special" and credited Susan Herbst, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts, with being catalyst behind her selection.

"When she was the dean here, she noted that no one from Temple was a member, and she thought perhaps we should try to get someone elected," said Newcombe, who was approached by Herbst and encouraged to try for nomination.

Co-director of Temple's Infant Lab at Ambler, Newcombe is a nationally recognized expert in cognitive development, specifically spatial development -- "where things are, how to get places, how to imagine things in three dimensions, and problem solving spatially such as an architect or organic chemist might do" -- and memory development -- "especially autobiographical memory development and the issue of why we cannot remember our early childhood very clearly."

She said the pure science that psychologists in her discipline have been doing for decades has now reached a point where it is ready to be translational and have an influence on education, people's thinking on parenting and making policy for young children.

"So I'm really excited, in terms of the discipline of cognitive psychology, about the idea that we're at the point where we can start to have an impact," Newcombe said. "That's one of the reasons being elected a fellow of the American Academy is so exciting. It is a big conduit for being able to work in groups, help write reports and really make sure that the science we do has an impact."

Founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock and other scholar-patriots, the Academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the 18th century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the 20th. The current membership includes more than 170 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners.

An independent policy research center, the academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Currently, academy research focuses on such issues as science and global security, social policy, the humanities and culture, and education.

- By Preston M. Moretz