WFU Humanities Institute celebrates 10 years

The Humanities Institute is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year by gathering stories from faculty about their collaborations with the Institute over the past decade.

Photo of the founding faculty leadership of the Wake Forest Humanities Institute, from left, Mary Foskett, David Phillips, Sally Barbour and Dean Franco standing in Carswell Hall

Founding faculty leadership for the Wake Forest Humanities Institute, from left, Mary Foskett, David Phillips, Sally Barbour and Dean Franco.

Building on its liberal arts tradition, Wake Forest established the Humanities Institute to support innovative scholarship and collaboration in October 2010. The Humanities Institute publicly celebrated its launch in March 2011.

Mary Foskett, Wake Forest Kahle Professor of Religious Studies; Dean Franco, Winifred W. Palmer Professor in Literature, English; Sally Barbour, professor of Romance Languages; and David Phillips, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities laid the groundwork and secured the funding that made the Institute possible. The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Wake Forest a five-year, $500,000 challenge grant – the largest NEH grant Wake Forest had ever received. Original programming included faculty seminars, symposia, professional development, and support for collaborative faculty research and teaching.

In February 2013, Wake Forest alumnus Wade Murphy (’00) donated $1 million to support the Institute, extending the reach and impact of humanities and the liberal arts. Murphy was the youngest person in the University’s history to make such a large gift.

In 2016, Wake Forest was awarded a $650,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of engaged humanities – teaching, learning, mentoring and real-world problem solving that moves beyond the classroom. In 2018, it received an additional $850,000 from the Mellon Foundation, and funds from both of these grants were distributed among several units across the university, including the Office of the Dean of the College, the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, and the Humanities Institute.

Professor of English Dean J. Franco was named director and has been leading the Institute since 2017.

Over the past ten years, the Humanities Institute has added a summer writing grant award, digital humanities support, programming for narrative medicine, support for engaged humanities research and teaching, and a book development grant – consistently supporting the work of hundreds of faculty across all campuses and schools of Wake Forest.

Tributes and videos are gathered on the 10th anniversary celebration website.

If you would like to learn more about the Humanities Institute or share your stories and memories, contact the Humanities Institute’s associate director, Aimee Mepham, at

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