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Howard University Initiates Toni Morrison Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities

Howard University announced on Feb.10 that they will initiate an endowed chair position in honor of awarded novelist and famed Howard alumna Toni Morrison.

Photo Courtesy of pw.org 

Howard University announced on Feb.10 that they will initiate an endowed chair position in honor of awarded novelist and famed Howard alumna Toni Morrison. 

“It is with great honor that we establish the Toni Morrison Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities,” President Wayne A. I.  Frederick said in a statement. “Toni Morrison left her mark as one of the greatest figures in American literature, and her legacy is one that continues to inspire future generations of writers and thinkers. By establishing an endowed chair in her name, we hope to deepen our students’ exposure to the literary and other creative arts and continue to remember Mrs. Morrison’s legacy.” He continued. 

The chairholder position will be bestowed upon a prominent faculty member, recognized as a national and international leader in his or her field of innovative work. The person will have a record of creative and academic impact that mirror the accredited career of Toni Morrison. 

According to the released statement from The Dig, “Howard University will select a chairholder whose prestige and continued impact of scholarship will help elevate Howard University’s scholarship and creative work in the arts and humanities.”

Dr. Rubin Patterson, dean of the College Arts and Science, said, “Establishing the Toni Morrison Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities sends a number of important messages from Howard University. Howard’s alumni comprise some of the most accomplished Black men and women in America, and Toni Morrison’s legacy is the pantheon of the brightest luminaries to be shaped by our university,” 

“Toni Morrison’s work brilliantly speaks to our intellect and our soul, two features of our being capable of making the world a better place for all.” he continued. 

The Toni Morrison Chair in Arts and Humanities will work with other Howard faculty to oversee the development of an Arts and Humanities Leadership Lab. The lab will oversee academic disciplines on key social issues impacting the nation and producing future alumni for leadership roles within a diverse America. 

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“This lab will be responsible for overseeing academic discipline about social issues impacting the nation. This lab will prepare future leaders to address the roiling social issues and advance new possibilities for human fulfillment, as well as prepare future alumni for leadership roles in the context of an increasingly diverse America,” Frank Tramble, vice president of communications and chief communications officer, said. 

Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a BA in English. She also taught in its English department for multiple years beginning in 1957. However, she was forced to leave due to a historic rule known as the “7-year cap.”This regulation causes lecturers to be dismissed from their position after seven years of teaching, despite the course load they may have taught during that time. 

“I think the 7-year gap is appropriate at Howard University, just as it primarily exists at many other esteemed universities throughout the nation. Ending the 7-year gap would effectively provide tenure to lectures, on par with tenured faculty without the research requirement,” Patterson said. 

 “As a research university, Howard awards tenure to faculty who are accomplished researchers and to those who are thereby qualified to professionally develop future researchers to continuously advance knowledge,” he continued. 

The Toni Morrison Endowed Chair in Arts and Humanities will be created by utilizing $3 million from philanthropist Mckenzie Scott’s $40 million gift to the university this past summer.

Copy edited by Jasper Smith

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