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NEH Chair Adams to Discuss ‘Making an Impact: Veterans and the Humanities’ on Nov. 14

William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Photo courtesy of the NEH)

William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Photo courtesy of the NEH)

Lecture Free, Open to Public

SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University’s College of Arts and Sciences welcomes William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who will discuss “Making an Impact: Veterans and the Humanities” in a free public lecture in Cataldo Hall’s Globe Room at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14.

Created in 1965, the NEH is an independent federal agency and one of the nation’s largest funders of humanities programs. Adams, the 10th chair of the NEH, has had a distinguished career as a professor of political philosophy and as president of Bucknell University and Colby College. Prior to completing his education, Adams served three years in the Army, including one year in the Vietnam War, which he cites as having had a profound influence on his decision to study philosophy.

“It made me serious in a certain way,” said Adams, a native of Birmingham, Michigan. “As a 20-year-old combat infantry advisor, I came face to face, acutely, with questions that writers, artists, philosophers, and musicians examine in their work – starting with, ‘What does it mean to be human?’”

Long an advocate for liberal education, Adams has said that, “this kind of study is not merely defensible but critical to our national welfare.” Adams earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a Ph.D. from the University of California Santa Cruz History of Consciousness Program. He also studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar.

His lecture at Gonzaga will address the importance of the humanities in a society that currently seems to privilege disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and math – an issue of particular importance at Gonzaga where there is a focus on education of the whole person in the tradition of Jesuit education.

“I believe this extends beyond education in that the humanities is the study of what gives human life meaning and what we value,” said Brian Cooney, English professor and director of Gonzaga’s Center for Public Humanities launched by the College of Arts and Sciences in September. “His talk will re-emphasize how important it is for all citizens to have a common vocabulary with which to discuss the most important issues we face together.”

In his focus on veterans, Adams will discuss how the humanities can help people.

Adams’ lecture is part of the interdisciplinary Center for Public Humanities’ focus on veterans. Continuing in that theme, the Gonzaga Visiting Writers Series welcomes novelist Tim O’Brien for a Feb. 6 presentation. O’Brien is best known for his powerful books inspired by his experiences in Vietnam, 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.

Cooney has contacted a number of student veterans and veterans’ groups on campus and throughout the Spokane area in efforts to use the humanities as a channel for veterans to tell their stories.

The mission of the Center for Public Humanities 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.

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