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Humanities program celebrates 50 years

Dr. Tim Dillon provided a history of the humanities program during Tuesday's celebration. Seated behind Dillon, from left to right: Katie-Starr Harrell, Rosemarie Shields, Nathan Cachiaras and Dr. Lee Blackburn.

Several of the humanities program's professors, past and present, attended convocation. From left to right: Nathan Cachiaras, Dr. Tim Dillon, Rosemarie Shields, Dr. Lee Blackburn, Dr. Heather Hoover, Dr. Robert Wetzel and Dr. Jack Knowles.

Dr. Blackburn, current director of the humanities program, and Dr. Hoover, director of the MAH program, stand with the humanities' birthday cake.

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (Feb. 22, 2019) — Milligan celebrated 50 years of the college’s iconic humanities program during Tuesday’s convocation ceremony.

Approved by Milligan faculty in January of 1968, the four-semester humanities requirement remains a hallmark of a Milligan education. While many liberal arts colleges approach the humanities thematically, Milligan teaches the humanities chronologically, from antiquity to the present.

This chronological approach is intentional and was conceived by retired Milligan professors Anna Mae Crowder, Dr. Robert Fife, Dr. LeRoy Lawson, Dr. Henry Webb and Dr. Robert Wetzel. In addition, Milligan’s unique program owes much of its inspiration to the vision of former President Dean E. Walker, who believed that knowledge is holistic.

On Tuesday, the convocation service allowed educators and students, past and present, to reflect on how the humanities’ curriculum has shaped their education. Wetzel, a founding faculty member, returned to campus for the ceremony.

The celebration featured a four-person panel that spoke to the value of the humanities, as well as provided a short history of the program. Speakers included Dr. Lee Blackburn, director of the humanities program; Nathan Cachiaras, alumnus and adjunct professor; Rosemarie Shields, retired humanities professor; and Katie-Starr Harrell, a senior.

As Blackburn opened the ceremony, he emphasized how the program has remained consistent over the years.

“While the lecture halls have changed, the principles and approach of Milligan’s humanities program have remained consistent,” said Blackburn. “I believe the humanities endures because so many of our former students continue to support the college and this program, including some who have returned to teach it.”

Cachiaras noted how the humanities’ coursework has become intertwined with many of his memories of college, recounting late night study sessions with peers at the Waffle House.

“I can remember sitting in a booth late at night, studying with friends and becoming overcome by the conclusion of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’,” laughed Cachiaras.

On a more serious note, Cachiaras noted, “Through the humanities, we recognize that we do not own all of the knowledge about the human experience and we need to be enriched by the experiences of those around us.”

For one retired professor, the humanities’ interdisciplinary approach enriched her as a professor and colleague.

“The program brings in professors of different backgrounds, which gives us all the opportunity to hear from experts in other fields. I learned as much from the other lecturers as I had learned in all my years as a student,” acknowledged Shields. “The program provides a similar experience for students; the humanities allows them to meet and learn with students from all disciplines.”

Dr. Tim Dillon, the Henry and Emerald Webb Chair of History, provided an engaging history of the humanities program. His commentary followed a slideshow of the program’s professors, the creation and continuation of the European humanities tours, and a collection of students’ experiences with the humanities.

“The humanities program is 50 years old and I have been involved in it for 48 of those years,” began Dillon. “We remain committed to this program because we are convinced that this is a good way for young people to learn about the world in which they live.”

The celebration continued with a 50th birthday cake and ice cream in the cafeteria after the service.

To learn more about Milligan’s humanities program and related undergraduate and graduate degree options, visit www.milligan.edu/humanities.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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