Center to Welcome NEH Chair William D. Adams
and Novelists Tim O’Brien and Whitney Terrell
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University’s College of Arts and Sciences announces its new Center for Public Humanities, directed by Brian Cooney, professor of English. The center will focus on veterans this academic year with special guests including William D. Adams, chair of the National Endowment of the Humanities, and American novelists Tim O’Brien and Whitney Terrell.
The interdisciplinary Center’s mission is to promote, sponsor and support community engagement with the humanities through teaching, service, research, and the public dissemination of knowledge in the tradition of a Jesuit, Catholic, and humanistic education, Cooney said.
Cooney, who began his career at Gonzaga in 2006, earned a Ph.D. in English (2004) with an emphasis in British romanticism from the University of South Carolina. John Hopkins University Press recently published his book, “The Collected Poetry of Mary Tighe,” edited by himself and Paula R. Feldman.
Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the Center will advance the strategic goals of the College of Arts and Sciences by “presenting opportunities for students and faculty to investigate and address meaningful problems in our local and global communities by reaching out to the public in efforts to promote humanities-based thinking.”
As director, Cooney said his focus will be adding to humanities programming at Gonzaga and promoting humanities initiatives to benefit the Gonzaga and regional communities.
“My first task is to make sure the work that’s already being done gets the best possible audience,” Cooney said.
A Focus on Veterans
The Center will focus on veterans this year and will maintain an emphasis on veterans in coming years – even as new themes are added. Free public events planned this academic year include:
- Novelist Terrell, author of “The Good Lieutenant,” will read from his book and participate in a panel discussion with three student veterans on how the book reflects the real experiences of veterans; 7-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 4 at the Spark Center in Kendall Yards. Terrell was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2006 and 2010 and covered the war for The Washington Post Magazine, Slate and National Public Radio.
- “Serving Those Who Served,” a panel discussion of College of Arts and Sciences faculty working with veterans to tell their stories and foster a wider understanding of their experiences; 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 8, Hemmingson Center Auditorium.
- Adams, chair of the NEH and a Vietnam War veteran, will discuss his experiences as a veteran; 7:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14, Cataldo Hall Globe Room. The NEH is an independent federal agency and one of the nation’s largest funders of humanities programs.
- Gonzaga Visiting Writers Series presentation by O’Brien, best known for his powerful books inspired by his experiences in the Vietnam War, including “The Things They Carried” (1990), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and “Going After Cacciato”(1978), for which he received the National Book Award in fiction; Feb. 6 (time and location to be announced).
Cooney has contacted a number of student veterans and veterans’ groups on campus and throughout Spokane to use the humanities as a channel for veterans to tell their stories throughout this year.
“On campus, in particular, we have over 200 student veterans and that’s a community that maybe is not recognized enough,” Cooney said.
The Center for Public Humanities also will offer Gonzaga faculty more opportunities to collaborate on humanities projects, including oral histories of veterans that Gonzaga professors have compiled and are using for their research and teaching.
“Creating a body of knowledge and using it to get students involved, and reproducing it for a public forum, is an incredible project,” he said.