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Institute celebrates work in the humanities

Alex Huppé

Alex Huppé '69 put off declaring his major until he was a senior at Binghamton University.

"I was enjoying myself too much. I had a wonderful time at Binghamton," says Huppé, who decided to major in English because it appealed to his strengths. His career would later include 20 years in public relations and 15 years as an instructor of English.

"You may come in as a pre-med major and you go out as a theater major. That's the sign of a good liberal arts education," he says. "Parents, they may find that an unpleasant idea ... but that's what we should be encouraging instead of programming kids at age 17 to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer or mathematician."

That's one reason why Huppé supports The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH). It opens up the world to students instead of narrowing it.

IASH celebrates humanities research, teaching and programming at the University, inspires cross-pollination of ideas and brings together scholars from an array of disciplines.

"Those of us who are comfortable enough to make gifts have to think very deeply about what has benefitted us so much about our education and about our own development," Huppé says. "The humanities institute resonated with me because it spoke to my own experience. The humanities institute really just plays to a core strength of Binghamton, and one that really needs to be preserved in today's culture."

Bar OnIASH offers fellowships for faculty and students. Fellows present lectures on their research topics, promoting discussion of their work and often gaining new ideas.

Grassroots political movements and literatures of the Americas are some of the areas of focus for IASH fellow Scott Henkel, an assistant professor of English.

"I can say without hesitation that my involvement with the institute has allowed me to produce a volume and quality of research that, quite simply, would not have been possible without its fellowships," Henkel says. "Intellectual discoveries rarely come from isolated individuals, but rather emerge when people interact, share thoughts and drafts, debate with one another, and help to test and sharpen one another's ideas. This is the goal of our weekly fellows meetings at IASH.

"This community has allowed me to see ideas that would not have been possible to see on my own, it has improved my scholarship, and it has helped to forge a collegiality among peers in other departments whom I otherwise would not have met."

IASH continues to gain momentum with key gifts from supporters. But those gains haven't wiped out the need for additional financial support.

Goals include adding a graduate-level research seminar in the humanities and having an end-of-year symposium, says IASH Director Bat-Ami Bar On.

She says IASH wants to integrate and push further new concepts of "what it is to be human and the human condition that humanistic research has been pursuing."

Last Updated: 1/20/17