Just days before delivering tonight's Hansford M. Epes Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities, Chad Wellmon '99 sounded a clarion call for reinvention in academia.
Wellmon, associate professor of German studies at the University of Virginia, wrote in a Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed:
"Over the course of the 19th century, universities adopted many of the norms of print culture and in so doing transformed themselves into modern research universities. We need a similar reinvention for our own universities as they enter a new age.... The university is a technology. Let's treat it like one."
Epes himself recalls office hours with Wellmon.
"Chad from the beginning found class discussion not nearly long enough, and pursued topics at length in office visits–to my enjoyment and enlightenment possibly more than to his," said Epes, registrar emeritus and professor emeritus of German and of Humanities. "He was a student who knew then and knows now how to set and pursue questions."
Tonight, Wellmon will set up and pursue questions stemming from his new book project Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age, and centering around Max Weber's 1918 talk "Science as Vocation."
Wellmon cited Weber in another Chronicle article, an eyewitness piece he wrote in the immediate aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville in August, "For Moral Clarity, Don't Look to Universities."
"Almost a century ago," Wellmon wrote, "the German sociologist Max Weber... told a group of students gathered in a lecture hall in Munich that they should not turn to the university for ultimate meaning...."
"How the Academic Elite Reproduces Itself" (subscription required)
"For Moral Clarity, Don't Look to Universities" (subscription required)