NYU Shanghai Provost Receives Shanghai Magnolia Gold Award

Joanna Waley-Cohen receiving Gold Magnolia Award cover photo
Oct 11 2019

Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong presented NYU Shanghai Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen with the Shanghai Magnolia Gold Award on September 29. Established in 1992, the Gold Award recognizes foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the city.  

“I am thrilled to receive this Gold Magnolia award in recognition of NYU Shanghai's ongoing contributions to the great city of Shanghai, which has nurtured us during our critical first seven years,” said Waley-Cohen. “We look forward to playing a part in the city's continued success as one of the most attractive cosmopolitan and innovative cities in the world.”

This year, Waley-Cohen was one of 12 foreign residents to receive the accolade. Her fellow awardees came from the fields of banking, trade, finance, shipping, and the service sectors.


Gold Magnolia Awards Ceremony

NYU Shanghai Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen (back row, fifth from the left) with fellow award winners and ceremony attendees.

Waley-Cohen’s career has been closely linked with China for the last half-century. 

“I decided when I was 18 that I would do something in university that I would never have the opportunity to do again. So I decided to learn Chinese. It was definitely a life changing experience. Then...I spent a month [in China] in 1973, and that was even more of a life-changing experience,” Waley-Cohen said. “From London, we took the train to China across Siberia. It took nine days to get here...and we arrived during the waning years of the Cultural Revolution. It was...different from anything any of us had ever encountered. It certainly solidified my interest in China.”

In 1992, Waley-Cohen began teaching the history of China at NYU, and from 2009 to 2012 she chaired the NYU History Department. She was also involved in planning NYU Abu Dhabi, designing its pathbreaking history curriculum and recruiting initial faculty in the humanities. After joining NYU Shanghai in 2012 as founding Dean of Arts and Sciences, Waley-Cohen strengthened and expanded the university’s teaching and research framework. As Provost and NYU Shanghai’s chief academic officer since 2014, she sets the university’s academic strategy and priorities, overseeing academic appointments, research, and faculty affairs.


Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen interviewed by media at Gold Magnolia Award

Joanna Waley-Cohen is interviewed by local media at the ceremony.

Shanghai Vice-Mayor Xu Kunlin spoke at the ceremony, and exhorted the city’s residents  -- Chinese and foreign -- to each do their part to build a more beautiful Shanghai. “We want to create opportunities for foreigners to thrive in Shanghai,” said Xu. “As rivers flow to the sea, we hope this city will continue to be an open harbor for the world’s talents. We want to work with you to seize opportunities and make dreams come true. So let’s work together and build a better Shanghai.”

Waley-Cohen follows in the footsteps of Vice-Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman -- a recipient of the award in 2015. Earlier this fall, NYU Shanghai’s Dean of Engineering and Computer Science Keith W. Ross and NYU Shanghai’s Affiliated Professor of Mathematics Charles M. Newman were also honored with the Magnolia Silver Award for “outstanding contributions to academia and academic exchanges” in Shanghai.


Joanna Waley-Cohen’s award certificate and medal of Gold Magnolia Award

Joanna Waley-Cohen’s award certificate and medal