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.
Nov. 1, 2021

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.

 

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Bennett and Jacquelynn Dorrance with President Robbins and Dean Durand. Photo courtesy of the College of Humanities
—Kim Stoll