New professorship honors Core curriculum

As part of the College’s commitment to general education, excellence in teaching and intellectual development through the Core curriculum, the College has established the Christian W. Mackauer Professorship in the College and in the Division of Social Sciences, supported by a $3.5 million dollar donation by Glenn Swogger Jr, AB‘57, chairman of the Redbud Foundation. John D. Kelly, professor of anthropology, has been named the inaugural Christian W. Mackauer Professor.

The new chair is named for Mackauer, who taught history in the College from the 1940s until his death in 1970. Mackauer was an architect and legendary teacher of the College’s History of Western Civilization Sequence, who powerfully articulated the mission of general education and its connections and tensions with more specialized knowledge. Mackauer declared that "students must comprehend the complexity and even arbitrariness of received ideas in order to understand their own possible roles in modern society.” Today, the College’s emphasis on general education for first- and second-year students with a strong foundation in the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural and mathematical sciences continues that principle, resulting in enriching and rigorous courses of study that allow College students to pursue advanced studies in their third- and fourth years with multiple dimensions of general knowledge.

“Historically, the University was dedicated to the rigorous study of liberal arts for undergraduates from its very beginnings in the 1890s,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “But it was not until the decades after 1930 that the College developed a Core curriculum for first- and second-year students, insisting that a rigorous introduction to broad, general knowledge was a necessary complement to and preparation for the more specialized knowledge of the Departments and the Schools. The Mackauer Professorship honors our unique mission to instill a common vocabulary and intellectual foundation among our students while also teaching them to rigorously analyze data, break down arguments and construct their own ideas from many approaches.”

Kelly teaches regularly in the Civilizations Sequence as well as Self, Culture and Society. His scholarship has focused on rituals throughout history, semiotic and military technologies and colonialism and capitalism. His research explores the impact of these topics in both India and Fiji. He also is the author of more than 30 articles, edited volumes and numerous lectures, and has written several influential books.

In addition, Kelly has successfully trained several generations of graduate students from a variety of departments in the practice of effective undergraduate teaching.