At the University of Arizona, the College of Humanities is thriving. Thanks to a transformative $5.4 million gift from alumni Jacquelynn and Bennett Dorrance to endow the deanship, the college is poised to continue growing. The gift is celebrated as one of the largest gifts to a humanities college anywhere in the nation.
“We are endowing the deanship because of our deep appreciation of Alain-Philippe Durand and his leadership as dean. We make this gift with the expressed intent to secure the College of Humanities, to help further the ideals of free speech and unity, and to strengthen the integration of traditional and cutting-edge approaches to humanities teaching and learning,” the Dorrances wrote in a statement.
Durand, the inaugural holder of the Dorrance Endowed Deanship, shares a common vision with the Dorrances. Together, they would like to make UArizona the go-to place, especially for other universities, to learn how to support innovative humanities programs including approaches that combine classic humanities with modern technologies.
The college’s transdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in applied humanities is one such program that sets UArizona apart. The program combines the essential skills gained from a traditional humanistic perspective with professional skills in fields such as business, health and design. “Applied humanities is one of fastest growing majors on campus. Humanities is growing here,” says Durand.
Humanities relevance in education is a topic that Durand and the Dorrances care deeply about, and longevity for the humanities was a key factor in the Dorrances’ decision to fund the deanship. “With an endowment, those funds will be there years from now to support new visions. This flexibility is essential to keeping the humanities relevant far into the future,” Durand says.
Durand says the Dorrances’ gift will allow leadership to adapt quickly and fund many types of trail-blazing learning experiences.
“We are creating a dean’s award for faculty called Opening the Canon. This prize will help faculty design a new course or revise existing courses that include the classic humanities in innovative ways. We are also creating an award for research and entrepreneurialism to support research projects that demonstrate new ways of thinking in, through, and with the humanities,” Durand says.
He also plans to launch the College of Humanities Perspectives Series, an annual event that will bring renowned speakers together for lively discussions on sometimes controversial topics.
“It’s important to us, and to the Dorrances, that the university is a space where all opinions and perspectives are respected,” Durand says. “We believe students should be exposed to those different perspectives so that they can make their own decisions. We believe in the freedom of expression and in democracy. "
The $5.4 million commitment ensures funding now and into the future that will help keep the ideals of the humanities at the forefront of the educational experience for UArizona students.