Villanova Awarded Major Grant to Mark Franklin Tercentenary

  • June 09, 2006

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Eighty school teachers from around the country will be awarded a paid week of study in Philadelphia learning about Benjamin Franklin and his considerable influence on the nation's history, thanks to a $160,000 grant to Villanova University. The Templeton Visions of Freedom Learning Community of the Villanova University Core Humanities Program and the Villanova University -based Matthew J. Ryan Project for the Study of Free Institutions and the Common Good will host two one-week workshops on Franklin. The workshops, titled “Benjamin Franklin and the Invention of America,” will take place June 26-30 and July 3-7 on the Villanova University campus and at various historical and cultural sites in Philadelphia. They are funded under the Landmarks of American History and Culture: Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia initiative, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Participants will learn about topics such as Franklin's use and development of a free press; his views on civic virtue, entrepreneurship, and diplomacy; his contributions to the constitutional convention and the political founding of the U.S.; and his attitudes toward slavery, women, and Native Americans. The overarching concern of each workshop will be to understand Franklin's role in the formation and invention of a new polity and a new people—as well as the complex legacy his efforts have left behind.

“NEH is honored to work with The Pew Charitable Trusts and Villanova University in helping teachers understand the life and contributions of this Founding Father of our nation,” said Michael Poliakoff, director of the NEH Division of Education Programs.

“The Pew Charitable Trusts is delighted to help support this program that will introduce Franklin to teachers from all over the United States by visiting sites in the city that he called home,” said Don Kimelman, director of Information and Civic Initiatives at the Trusts. “The grant we made is in keeping with the Trusts' longstanding commitment—based on its donors' vision—to familiarize Americans with the historical events, exceptional leaders and powerful ideas that have shaped this country.”

The program will combine lectures and seminars by leading Franklin scholars with instructional visits to some of the landmarks that Franklin helped place on the American historical and cultural map, including Independence Hall, Christ Church, The University of Pennsylvania, and The Library Company. These visits are designed to give participants a first-hand look at Franklin's innovations in public affairs and civic life, as well as introduce them to the use of Philadelphia landmarks in teaching and learning about American history.

The workshop faculty will feature some of the nation's most outstanding scholars of Franklin and the American founding, including:

  • Ralph Lerner, Benjamin Franklin Professor in the College and professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and author of Revolutions Revisited: Two Faces of the Politics of Enlightenment, which probes Franklin's intellectual contribution to the American founding.  
  • Rosalind Remer, Executive Director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary and formerly Associate Professor of History at Moravian College. Dr. Remer is the author of Printers and Men of Capital: The Philadelphia Book Trade in the New Republic.  
  • William Allen, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Program in Public Policy and Administration at Michigan State University. Dr. Allen has served as Chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights and as a member of the National Council for the Humanities.  
  • Harvey Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University and author of numerous books and articles on American politics and political philosophy. Dr. Mansfield is also a translator of the works of Machiavelli and of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America.  
  • Lorraine Pangle, Associate Professor of Government at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the forthcoming book The Political Philosophy of Benjamin Franklin. Dr. Pangle is also co-author of The Learning of Liberty: The Educational Ideas of the American Founders.

Cecilia Brauer of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra will give public performances on the instrument Franklin invented, the glass armonica, at St. Mary's Chapel on the Villanova University campus on June 26 and July 6. Several other workshop events will also be open to the public, including evening lectures at the National Constitution Center by Dr. Lerner on June 27 and Dr. Mansfield on July 5. Other public lectures include those by Dr. Allen at Christ Church during the evenings of June 29 and July 3 and Dr. Pangle at Villanova University during the afternoon of June 26.

A number of Villanova University faculty will be involved in the workshop. Co-directors include: Dr. Catherine Wilson, College of Arts and Sciences, Core Humanities program; and Dr. Colleen Sheehan, College of Arts and Sciences, department of political science and Core Humanities program. Dr. Jonathan Doh, School of Business, department of management; Dr. Catherine Kerrison and Dr. Paul Rosier, College of Arts and Sciences, department of history; and Dr. Paul Pasles, College of Arts and Sciences, department of mathematics will serve as lead scholars. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Sheehan, along with Prof. Andrew Bove and Dr. Joseph Prud'homme, both in the Core Humanities program, will serve as seminar facilitators. Dr. Lowell Gustafson from the department of political science is the website designer.

A major goal of the workshop is to provide teachers an opportunity to learn to use primary documents, national landmarks, historical archives, and technology to broaden their understanding of the American Founding and aid in their curricular development. To this end Janet Lee Ranheim, James Madison Fellow and master's candidate in history in the College of Arts and Sciences at Villanova University, will serve as master teacher at the workshops, and will assist participants in the creation of lesson plans and other teaching tools for classroom use.

“This project offers an opportunity to look at Franklin as a man whose social consciousness drove him to be a wise, and at times wily, critic of the world around him,” said Dr. Kel Wieder, associate dean for Sciences at Villanova University. “Nearly three centuries years after he roamed the streets of Philadelphia, Franklin lives on as the embodiment of what a liberal education seeks to instill in its students. Villanova University is delighted to join in the ongoing celebration of Benjamin Franklin as a scientist, inventor, educator, and statesman.”

Eighty participants representing 33 states and the District of Columbia will be attending the workshops. Those selected are full-time and part-time K-12 teachers from private, public, parochial, and charter schools. Additionally, those selected to participate include school personnel such as administrators, substitute teachers, and librarians. Participants will receive a $500 stipend, and funds will also be available on a case-by-case basis for those traveling long distances.

More detailed information on the workshops can be found on the “Benjamin Franklin and the Invention of America” website: www.benfranklinworkshop.org.

About NEH

Because democracy demands wisdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (www.neh.gov) serves and strengthens our Republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans.

About Villanova

Villanova University is a coeducational Roman Catholic institution founded in 1842 by the priests and brothers of the Order of St. Augustine that welcomes students of all faiths. The University consists of five colleges: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, The School of Business, The College of Engineering and The College of Nursing and The School of Law. It is the oldest and largest Catholic university in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more than a decade it has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 University in the North (Master's Division). Business Week has ranked the undergraduate business school No. 19 in the nation.

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