Letters Archive
Fall 98, Vol. 7, No. 1
  • Inventing Work
  • 1998/99 Fellows
  • Warren Center Honors Susan Ford Wiltshire
  • Announcements
  • Warren Center Honors Susan Ford Wiltshire


    Susan Ford Wiltshire, professor of classical studes, was appointed by President Bill Clinton to a six-year term on the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH and the National Endowment for the Arts were established by a bill signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1965. At the time, President Johnson argued for the national importance of the arts and humanities:

    In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history's catalogue.

    Art is a nation's most precious heritage, for it is in our works that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us a nation . And where there is no vision, the people perish.

    We in America have not always been kind to the artists and scholars who are the creators and the keepers of our vision. Somehow, the scientists always seem to get the penthouse, while the arts and the humanities get the basement.

    Professor Wiltshire is the first person in Tennessee to be appointed to the Council. The Warren Center and College of Arts and Science Dean Ettore F. Infante recently held a reception at the Warren Center to honor Professor Wiltshire. She shared some thoughts about her appointment with Letters.

    The ability to share stories that keep our society civil, our minds alert, and our hearts happy requires attentive nurture. That attentiveness is the purpose of the Warren Center at Vanderbilt University and the NEH. I am a grateful participant in both institutions; I am confident that the one helped prepare the way for the other.

    As a former fellow, an Advisory Committee member and a continuing beneficiary of the programs of the Warren Center, I have honed the art and discipline of learning from stories different from my own. The research in which I engaged the year I was a fellow led to a book, Greece, Rome, and the Bill of Rights (University of Oklahoma Press 1992). But it is habits of the heart and mind tht have mattered to me most.

    We are all grateful to the deans of Arts and Science who have taken care of the Center, beginning with Dean Voegeli and continuing through Deans Goodman and Infante. Mona Frederick has been the constant spirit behind the Center with her lively intellect and keen judgement, and such faculty heads as Paul Elledge have contributed more than their share to the well-being of the program.

    As a member of the National Council on the Humanities, I am now able to attend to these issues on the national level. I am particulary eager that the Congressional support of the NEH be increased and that all the NEH's programs flourish. They are needed more than ever in an increasingly cyberspace society. Appropriately, the NEH is taking the lead in ensuring that the humanities stay at the center of these technological advances.

    By way of personal footnote, I wish to express my gratitute to all those at Vanderbilt who supported my nomination to the National Council, including Jeff Carr, Bill Phillips, and Mona Frederick. It happens aalos that I am surely the only nominee who had the full support of the American agriculture movement for this appointment. I would like to think that those whose spirits we honor in the Warren Center, the Vanderbilt poet agrarians, would approve.

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