Dr. Dai-Won Yoon, Chairman of the Ilsong Educational Foundation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Hallym University has the honor of presenting Dr. Herbert Pardes with an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, and we are gathered here today to celebrate this meaningful occasion. The first honorary doctorate awarded in the United States was by Harvard University to a clergyman in 1692. In Europe, the University of Oxford is recorded as the first to confer such a degree, about 200 years earlier, in the late 1470’s. For Hallym University, this is the 12th honorary doctorate to be awarded. While PhD degrees are generally earned by demonstrating one’s academic scholarship, honorary doctorates are granted in recognition of one’s accomplishments in and contributions to society.
As is evident in Dr. Pardes’ biography, he has led an exemplary life, worthy of admiration and respect. He is a self-made hero, who turned the impossible into possible. His story of taking on new challenges, overcoming hardships, and achieving success is an inspiration for many.
Dr. Pardes could also be described as an early accomplisher. He was always younger and quicker than his peers in rising through the ranks and achieving results. The fact that he was a department chair at a medical center at age 37 attests to his leadership qualities as well.
At a time when many doctors chose to practice internal medicine, Dr. Pardes made a switch from internal medicine to psychiatry. Not only did he realize that a great majority of outpatients were suffering from psychiatric problems, he also found psychiatry to be a field where he could always learn. I believe it is this spirit of service and intellectual curiosity that guided Dr. Pardes through life.
I took some time trying to get to know Dr. Pardes a little better. Although I don’t have professional knowledge of psychiatry, I trust myself to have some general knowledge about human behavior and psychology. I am an economist by training, and even in the field of economics, I notice that behavioral economics, a large part of which is based on psychology, has become mainstream. This trend is reflected in the list of recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics.
In my effort to get to know Dr. Pardes, I read a few of his earlier works on mental illness, written while he was still a young scholar and psychiatry department chair at the University of Colorado and Columbia University. In addition to co-editing the book “Understanding Human Behavior in Health and Illness,” Dr. Pardes also wrote several chapters of the book. These include establishing the concept of mental illness by comparing normality and abnormality, investigating the concept of unconsciousness, and analyzing childhood and adolescent emotional disorders. I found it particularly interesting that he developed his logic based on patient interviews. From the few words I have used to describe a small part of his work, anyone can see that Dr. Pardes was a scholar who delved into the fundamental question of what constitutes healthy human behavior.
However, I still believe the real turning point in life for Dr. Pardes was when he made the bold move from academia to management and began to really make something out of nothing. I would think his experience in Washington DC and his subsequent return to New York provided the momentum for this turning point in his life. It had been challenging enough to bring Columbia University and the Presbyterian Hospital together in the 1920s. But in 1998, the New York Hospital, affiliated with Cornell University, announced its merger with the Presbyterian Hospital, thereby creating the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Pardes was appointed the President and CEO, and under his leadership, the hospital grew by leaps and bounds. In one TV interview that I found on Google, Dr. Pardes was being referred to as a builder of New York, who was second only to the Mayor of New York City in terms of the number of people he employed.
I dare say that Dr. Pardes became a psychiatrist to heal people. But he didn’t stop there. He took a step further. He used his communication skills to persuade people and, in the process, found a cure for conflicts of interest. That is how he was able to raise funds for such institutions as the Diabetes Center and Cancer Center. His life-long dedication to philanthropy ultimately led him to serve the greater good.
The time I have allotted is not nearly enough to shed light on Dr. Pardes’ achievements. I just wanted to play a small part in introducing Dr. Pardes by sharing what I felt about his work, as I got to know him a little. Once again, it truly is an honor to be able to invite such a great man to our university and celebrate his achievements with an honorary doctorate of philosophy. I wish all the best for the health and happiness of Dr. Pardes and his family. Thank you.
April 23, 2019
President, Hallym University