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Archive for Monday, April 22, 2013

KU’s Hall Center for Humanities receives $2.7 million gift

April 22, 2013

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The Kansas University Endowment Association on Monday announced another gift from the Kansas City, Mo.-based Hall Family Foundation, which has donated tens of millions of dollars to KU over the years: $2.7 million to bolster research at KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities.

The donation will allow the center to seek a leading humanities researcher to fill a new distinguished professorship and create two new research fellowships.

The gift continues decades of support for the Hall Center from the foundation bearing the same name. That support is the envy of many other centers in a field where deep-pocketed endowments are rare, said Hall Center Director Victor Bailey.

“It’s certainly a heck of a lot by any standard of the humanities,” Bailey said.

With the gift, the Hall Center will work to build its research in two rising fields that sometimes go hand in hand: the collaborative humanities, in which researchers from different fields or different universities work together, and the digital humanities, which makes use of computer tools to learn new things about subjects such as history or literature.

Out of the $2.7 million, $500,000 will create a new distinguished professorship, which could attract a leading researcher from elsewhere. Another $1 million will create a postdoctoral fellowship for a budding researcher in the digital humanities, and $1 million more will create a mid-career fellowship, allowing a faculty member to break from teaching for a year to conduct intensive research.

“The gift, finally, I think, allows us to do what the center’s always stood for, which is to keep pushing the envelope in terms of research innovation and research excellence,” Bailey said.

For instance, he said, new digital tools can enable researchers to load an author’s entire body of work into a database and search for every time the writer ever used a certain word or concept.

“There’s no way you could do this by hand,” Bailey said, “and yet if you have the right algorithm and you attach it to the right database, you can start asking interesting questions.”

The Hall Center and Hall Family Foundation are named for Joyce Hall, who founded Hallmark Cards, and his wife, Elizabeth. A $4 million gift from the foundation helped the center move into its current building in 2005.

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