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Cultivating a liberal arts tradition

By Myles Brand, President of Indiana University



On Founders Day, we honor our outstanding students and faculty members, and also the contributions of those who built this great university.

High on any list of the builders of IU is William Lowe Bryan, the university’s president from 1902-1937. A scholar in Greek and philosophy, he was firmly grounded in the university’s humanities tradition. In his 1902 inaugural speech, he discussed the faith in education, which he called “the dominant faith of our time.”

As one example, he pointed to the generous contributions to education that came from many of the leading industrialists of his day.

“It is a significant fact that these hard-headed men have thought it practical to give their money not solely or even mainly to foster strictly money-making occupations, but also for fine art, for research in pure science and for the study of the ancient classics,” Bryan said. “The individual motives of these men doubtless vary widely, but one and all they are caught up by the power of a social faith, which is wiser and stronger than any man.”

That dedication to higher learning and to the arts and humanities has been a cornerstone of Indiana University since its founding. While we believe that a major public university must play a leading role in the economic development of the state it serves, we have also stressed the importance of our liberal arts tradition. It is vital for our faculty members to discover and convey knowledge about history, philosophy and our cultural heritage. It is just as important for any well-educated person to share that understanding.

Recently, we announced another round of funding through our Arts and Humanities Grants program. This represents the second of a four-year, $4 million grant program I announced in 2000 to encourage outstanding scholarship, research and creative work among IU faculty members in the arts and humanities. (See the list of recipients)

The 27 recipients of this year’s grants represent five different IU campuses. Their wide-ranging proposals showed the continued vigor of the arts and humanities across our university.

I am proud that so many of our faculty members in these areas continued to be “caught up by the power of a social faith” in liberal arts education. And I am sure William Lowe Bryan would have approved as well.

What’s on your mind? E-mail President Brand at:

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Publication date: March 1, 2002
Copyright 2000, The Trustees of Indiana University