First Feigenbaum Forum fills the Nott

Publication Date

Hundreds packed the Nott Memorial Tuesday, Nov. 3, for the inaugural Feigenbaum Forum on Innovation and Creativity.

Howard Gardner, an internationally-renowned psychologist who developed the theory of multiple intelligences that revolutionized how educators teach their students, was the featured speaker.

Howard Gardner

The John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Gardner spent an hour outlining his theory, a critique of the notion that there exists but a single human intelligence (such as the traditional IQ) that can be assessed by standard psychometric instruments.

Touching on the lives of notable people like Freud, Einstein, Picasso and Ghandi, Gardner argued that creativity is not an all-purpose trait but instead involves distinct intelligences, including musical, interpersonal, spatial-visual, mathematical and linguistic.

A winner of a MacArthur Prize Fellowship, Gardner also explained how he believes innovation differs from creativity in that innovation is primarily focused on bringing an idea to market, but “there should be room for both.”

The forum is made possible through a gift from the Feigenbaum Foundation. The foundation was created by brothers Armand V. Feigenbaum ’42 and Donald S. Feigenbaum ‘46, longtime benefactors to Union. Acknowledged world leaders in systems engineering and total quality control, the brothers founded General Systems Co., the Pittsfield, Mass.-based international systems engineering firm that designs and helps implement operational systems for corporations and governments worldwide.

Armand died November 2014; Donald, March 2013.

For more than a dozen years, the brothers hosted the Feigenbaum Forum, a gathering on campus at which academicians discussed characteristics of a new generation of leaders and how better to integrate liberal arts and other studies.

The new program builds on this event by bringing in speakers who have revolutionized their fields of endeavor through contributions deemed innovative and creative.

Looking out at the overflow crowd in the Nott (dozens more watched a livestream of the event in Karp Hall), President Stephen C. Ainlay said the brothers would be “absolutely thrilled” with how their program has evolved.

In supporting the event, Emil J. George, president of the Feigenbaum Foundation, said the brothers “always talked of their love of Union College.”