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Hopkins establishes humanities institute with $10 million gift

"The study of humanities is at the basis of everything in life," says Elizabeth Grass Weese. She hopes the new Alexander Grass Humanities Institute helps win Hopkins a reputation in the humanities commensurate with its standing in health and medicine.
Posted May 11, 2016
From left to right: Beverly Wendland, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Alexander Grass Humanities Institute Director and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities William Egginton, Elizabeth Grass Weese, President Ron Daniels From left to right: Beverly Wendland, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Alexander Grass Humanities Institute Director and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities William Egginton, Elizabeth Grass Weese, President Ron Daniels

Elizabeth Grass Weese believes Johns Hopkins can have the same renown in the humanities as it does in the fields of health and medicine — so much so that she and her brother, Roger Grass, have made an unprecedented $10 million commitment to help the university reach that important goal.

Their gift, the largest ever to exclusively support the humanities at Johns Hopkins, establishes the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute, a hub uniting 10 departments in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences as well as related centers and programs across the university.

"Really, the study of humanities is at the basis of everything in life, and sometimes it gets short shrift," says Weese, the parent of two Hopkins undergraduates. "What I really love about the institute is its cross-disciplinary nature, which illustrates the scope of the humanities. The opportunities will ultimately broaden students' options in life."

She and Grass made their gift through the Alexander Grass Foundation, named for their late father, the founder of Rite Aid Corp.

"The study of the humanities reflects humankind's ceaseless quest to know who we are and how we understand our relation to one another," says Johns Hopkins University President Ron Daniels. "Elizabeth and Roger's generous gift stands as a bold statement of Johns Hopkins' unwavering commitment to these disciplines and their essential role in addressing the key questions of our age."

"We believe that studying these disciplines opens our students to important new ways of thinking and puts them on the path to more productive and useful lives," says Beverly Wendland, the James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "We are grateful to Elizabeth Weese, Roger Grass, and the foundation for strengthening so substantially our work in the humanities."

The Alexander Grass Humanities Institute will advance creativity and discovery by funding visiting scholars and encouraging multidisciplinary research, and enhance the student experience by supporting undergraduate fellowships and undergraduate projects, among other initiatives.

The breadth of humanities study at Hopkins speaks to the depth and enthusiasm of the university’s support and the importance of humanities education, says Christopher Celenz, vice dean for humanities and social sciences and chair of the Classics Department.

"Especially for our undergraduate students, many of whom will change careers every five years, the humanities provide personal resiliency by helping people re-situate themselves in life’s different circumstances," he notes.

William Egginton, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and a professor in the department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures, will serve as the institute's first director.

Learn More

Children of Rite Aid founder donate $10 million to Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore Sun)

$10 million gift largest ever Johns Hopkins has received for the humanities (Baltimore Business Journal)

Philanthropists Donate $10 million to support Hopkins humanities (WBAL Radio)

$10 million gift establishes institute for the humanities at Johns Hopkins (The Daily Record)