Fifty years ago, as President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law a bill to create the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, Rhode Island’s freshman Senator, Claiborne Pell, stood directly behind the president in the White House rose garden. Pell, who had been elected in 1960, earned the honored position by helping to lead the legislative effort. It would remain one of Senator Pell’s signature legislative achievements.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities, three Rhode Island institutions which carry the legacy of Senator Pell—the Pell Center at Salve Regina University, the University of Rhode Island Libraries, and the RI Council for the Humanities—have joined forces to create the Pell Humanities Initiative. The initiative will honor Senator Pell’s commitment to the humanities in the health of the nation by showcasing the vital contributions of the humanities in our society today. A list of participating organizations and projects can be found on the Pell Humanities Initiative webpage.
The Pell Humanities Initiative was announced Wednesday, August 12, 2015, at a celebration of the humanities featuring current-NEH Chairman Dr. William Adams at Ochre Court on the campus of Salve Regina University. Salve’s on-campus think-tank, the Pell Center, partnered with the University of Rhode Island’s University Libraries—which house the Pell papers—and the RI Council for the Humanities in organizing the celebration.
“The Pell Humanities Initiative is Rhode Island’s way of saying Happy Birthday to the NEH and of showcasing the tremendous contributions of the humanities in our lives today,” said Elizabeth Francis, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. “Senator Pell’s vision of what makes a ‘truly great society’ is being carried out in imaginative, compelling programs all over the state, and we are highlighting how the humanities address the challenges we face and make a difference in our communities. It is exciting that so many of Rhode Island’s colleges and universities, theaters, libraries, museums, historical societies, and more are participating. And we will feature many more humanities projects for the public throughout this anniversary year.”
“It is an honor to be in Rhode Island to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the legacy of Senator Claiborne Pell, who had the foresight to recognize the need for public investment in the humanities,” said NEH Chairman William Adams. “As Senator Pell knew, the humanities contribute richness, beauty, and wisdom to our lives. These three Rhode Island institutions exemplify the power of the humanities to foster community and help us address the challenges we face as a society.”