The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Immediate

Endowment for the Humanities chairman William Ferris to visit UI Nov. 2

(Editors note: Ferris will be available to speak to the media briefly at approximately 5 p.m., immediately following the speeches in the Senate Chamber and before the reception.)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- William Ferris, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will visit the University of Iowa Monday, Nov. 2 to inaugurate the UI Arts and Humanities Initiative and to speak about the importance of funding humanities research.

Ferris's campus visit will include a celebratory event at 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol, followed by a reception. During the formal program Ferris will give a lecture titled, "America Won the Cold War But Is Losing its Soul: Why Federal Funding for the Humanities Should Be Increased."

UI President Mary Sue Coleman will speak on the long tradition of UI strength and innovation in the arts and humanities. David Skorton, vice president for research, will describe the Arts and Humanities Initiative and other UI programs in support of arts and humanities scholarship. Jay Semel, director of the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, will acknowledge those UI faculty members who received arts and humanities grants from the University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other federal and state agencies.

The Arts and Humanities Initiative, funded by an annual state appropriation of $300,000, is designed to advance research in the humanities and work in the creative and performing arts. The UI requested the funding in 1997 in the wake of significant budget cuts to federal agencies funding such research. The Iowa Legislature first allocated the money for this program in the 1998 budget and has committed to an annual appropriation.

"In the arts and humanities funding is difficult to come by," Skorton said. "That's why this initiative is so important to our institution. This initiative will permit us to advance the scholarly and creative efforts of so many people. We are grateful that the Board of Regents supported our request and that the legislature and governor have added that amount to our annual budget, creating an on-going benefit to the arts and humanities."

Semel said Ferris's visit to the UI demonstrates that those at the highest levels of federal funding believe in the Arts and Humanities Initiative and want to celebrate the university's efforts to create the program and the state's willingness to support it. "We are very pleased and honored to have Dr. Ferris take the time to come to campus to recognize the Initiative and the university's and the state's commitment to the arts and humanities," Semel said.

Before becoming chairman of the NEH in 1997, Ferris served for 18 years as founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. While serving as director of the center, Ferris oversaw the creation of a number of cultural programs, including the Oxford Conference for the Book, the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, and the International Conferences on Elvis Presley held in 1994 and 1995.

Among the many books Ferris has written or edited is the best-selling "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture," which was published in 1989 and contains entries on every aspect of Southern culture. The volume was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and is widely recognized as a major reference work linking popular, folk, and academic cultures.

Ferris's scholarly interests include the fields of folklore, American literature, music, and photography. He has won numerous awards for his work in the humanities, including the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities, which is awarded by the President of the United States. The French government also has honored Ferris, naming him both a Chevalier and an Officer in the Order of Arts and letters.