Gifts Help Center for the Humanities Secure $6 Million Endowment

July 20, 2016

Thanks to a matching grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and substantial gifts from generous supporters, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities has secured $6 million in endowment as it celebrates 54 years of scholarship.

The $2 million Mellon grant was announced in October 2011; Wesleyan succeeded in raising the $4 million required for the match in two years, less than half the time required by Mellon when the grant challenge began in 2011. Fifteen Wesleyan alumni, parents and friends supplied leadership gifts to win the matching funds.

“At a time when one hears so much rhetoric about the humanities in retreat, Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities is pressing forward,” said Ethan Kleinberg, director of the CFH. “The case for the importance and relevance of the humanities in the 21st century will not be made by pointing backwards to that which has been done, but instead by pointing to that which we are doing.”

The CFH funds, raised as part of Wesleyan’s $400 million “THIS IS WHY campaign, will support engagement with the undergraduate curriculum, scholarly research, work with scholars and organizations outside Wesleyan, and the connection of humanities research to public life.

The Center for Humanities, since the establishment in 1959 of its forerunner, the Center for Advanced Studies, has a distinguished record of promoting interdisciplinary scholarship. Collaborations with the College of Social Studies, the College of Letters, the Science in Society Program and the recently adopted Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory will continue that tradition. Yet Kleinberg said the center will also pursue work reflecting the changes and influence of the digital age.

“Support from the Mellon grant and the matching funds has certainly allowed us to build the best of our longstanding traditions … while also reinventing ourselves as a virtual and actual hub for experimentation in new media and the digital liberal arts,” he said.

The signature CFH event this year was set for Sept. 26-28, as the Center hosts a conference commemorating the 50thanniversary of the publication of Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The influential and controversial work was completed by political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) while she was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies. The conference will reflect on the reverberating repercussions of Arendt’s work, which asks important and abiding questions about personal responsibility under dictatorship, the moral judgment of evil, and the historical conditions that shape our understanding of the Holocaust.

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