April 26, 2019

Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Jon Parrish Peede, joined University President John Garvey in the Pryzbyla Center this week to discuss “Keeping Faith in American Universities: Belief, Knowledge, and Democracy.”

Michael Kimmage, chair and professor of history at Catholic University, moderated the event and began by asking Peede about the rich history of faith-based education in the United States. Peede discussed some of America’s oldest academic institutions and their founding ideas of strengthening moral integrity, which faith-based universities around the globe continue to do today.

As for the present moment, both Peede and Garvey expressed that we are currently living in an important and exciting moment for faith-based higher education. “There has been a much more conscious reflection on what faith has to add to the study of the humanities,” said Garvey, discussing the insights that religion gives to answering important moral and ethical questions.

Both Peede and Garvey said that faith was also a point that could bring people together in “polarized times.” Peede specifically discussed the very basic but very important ties that different religions share. “Religion has historically been a uniter,” he said.

As part of the Federal Government, the NEH issues grants to buildings of historic and cultural importance. Peede reflected that many recent endowments had been given to churches and synagogues to preserve the rich historical and cultural significance attached to them.

President Garvey touched upon the ways in which Catholic University was a place that brought many of these ideas together. Not only is Catholic University a faith-based institution, but it is an American institution perfectly situated to bring together faith, knowledge, and democracy under one roof, or rather, one campus.

When looking to the future, Garvey said he hoped there would be a strengthened, “appreciation for the role that religious convictions play in building our culture and our understanding of science, art, beauty, knowledge, and democracy.”

For the NEH, Peede affirmed that the endowment is committed to funding a variety of projects, groups, and universities who wish to do research across a number of topics. These different projects directly add to the rich cultural history of the United States that the NEH works to preserve. “Whatever [the project] is,” Peede said, “it’s going to have a piece of telling the American story.”

Liz Shoemaker, B.A. 2020, Marketing and Communications Intern. For more information, contact communications@cua.edu. 

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