Chairman of National Endowment for the Humanities coming to URI

William Adams to give speech as agency’s existence threatened by new administration

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 7, 2017 – William D. Adams, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will give a keynote lecture at the University of Rhode Island Tuesday, April 11, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. as part of a daylong conference.

His public talk will be at the Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, room 100, 104 Flagg Road on the Kingston Campus.

His address on “A Sense of Place: Cézanne and Merleau-Ponty in Le Tholonet,” will be followed by a roundtable discussion on “Phenomenology and the Arts Today.” The discussion will address innovation in humanities scholarship and education, and will answer the question of why humanities are needed in the public sphere.

“We are extremely fortunate to have him come to Rhode Island and the state University at this time of potential crisis in humanities funding,” Galen Johnson, conference director and the Jane C. Ebbs Professor of Philosophy at URI.

The conference will also feature guest speakers from France, Canada, local universities from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1 and 5 p.m. in Swan Hall, Hoffman room 154, 60 Upper College Road on the Kingston Campus. The conference will highlight the connections between philosophy and the arts, and the public roles served by the arts and humanities.

Adams expressed his concern about his agency’s future in a March 16 statement following the release of President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget.

“We are greatly saddened to learn of this proposal for elimination, as NEH has made significant contributions to the public good over its 50-year history,” writes Adams.

The NEH promotes research in humanities through grants to museums, libraries, universities and individual scholars. The new administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget plans to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“These grants have reached into every part of the country and provided humanities programs and experiences that benefit all of our citizens,” continues Adams.

Adams earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a Ph.D. at the University of California. He also studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar and then taught philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and the University of North Carolina. Adams was president of Colby College in Maine from 2000 to 2014 when he retired to become chairman of the NEH, where he is a strong advocate for liberal arts education.


Other speakers at the conference will be :


  • Rajiv Kaushik, associate professor of philosophy at Brock University, Ontario, Canada.
  • Mauro Carbone, full professor of aesthetics at the Faculté de Philosophie of the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3, in France and senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France.
  • Vincent Colapietro, liberal arts research professor of philosophy and African-American studies at the Pennsylvania State University.
  • Peter R. Costello, professor of philosophy and of public and community service at Providence College.
  • Licia Carlson, associate professor of philosophy at Providence College.
  • URI alumnus Bryan Bannon, associate professor of philosophy and director of environmental studies at Merrimack College.
  • URI alumnus Marjorie Johnson, museum educator for high school programs at the National Gallery of Art.
  • URI Post-Doctoral Fellow of Philosophy James Haile.
  • URI Professor of Philosophy and Associate Director of the Honors Program Cheryl Foster.
  • URI Associate Professor of English Stephen Barber.
  • URI Associate Professor of English David Faflik.
  • URI Graduate Assistant in Literature and Cultural Studies Amy Foley.
  • URI Professor of English Kathleen Davis.
  • Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Rhode Island.
  • Elizabeth Francis, director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.
  • Mark Levitt, radio and TV host, filmmaker and audio artist.

The conference will also feature two guest artists :

  • Marta Nijhuis, Italian-Dutch artist based in Lyon, France and lecturer at the Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and School of Engineering in Culture, Art and Luxury in France.
  • Lisa Karrer, American performer, composer, vocalist, videographer and installation artist.

The event sponsors are the URI Departments of Philosophy, English, Classical and Foreign Languages and Literatures, Art and Art History, the URI Center for the Humanities, the URI College of Art and Sciences and URI Office of the Provost. This event was funded in part by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.

Sarah Saltiel-Ragot, an international student from Sciences Po Rennes in France and an intern in URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications, wrote this press release.