Richards Civil War Era Center succeeds in NEH Challenge Grant

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts and the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center have exceeded an ambitious fundraising goal of $3 million, after securing a $1 million challenge grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). With the support of one of the NEH's largest We the People Challenge Grants and alumni philanthropy, the Richards Civil War Era Center has become a national leader in the study of not only the Civil War era, but also the larger struggle for American freedom ranging from slavery to civil rights.

''The Richards Center and the college are thrilled at the enormous enthusiasm and the support that the liberal arts alumni and friends have contributed over the last five years to help us meet the challenge’s deadlines,'' said William Blair, liberal arts research professor of American history and director of the center. ''Our Board of Visitors showed outstanding leadership in making gifts and soliciting other alumni and friends of the University to assist in the NEH challenge. The overall total raised to meet the challenge is more than $3.4 million, which supports top-ranked faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and programs for school teachers and the public. Our faculty and graduate students continue to find new insights and make discoveries on the importance of the Civil War era and its impact on our history and on our society today.''

George Richards, a 1954 Penn State graduate, who with his wife, Ann, endowed the center in 2002, played a key leadership role in the fundraising efforts of the center and the college.''We are so proud of the pathbreaking research and teaching being done by the center’s faculty and graduate students,'' Richards said. ''Less than half of NEH Challenges are successful, and the center’s achievement is even more significant because they had to conduct the final phase of the fundraising during one of the worst economic recessions in the U.S. Therefore, the philanthropic success is a great testament to the highly committed alumni volunteers on the center’s Board of Visitors and the college, who fully immersed themselves in this cause.''

Among the Richards Center activities supported by NEH funds and alumni gifts include a new academic journal for Civil War historical scholarship, a teachers institute offering ways to incorporate the latest scholarship about America’s struggles for freedom into classrooms, social media sites to share center scholarship and research with the public, a new kind of society for Civil War era historians with an ongoing national conference, a 2007 symposium on the Emancipation Proclamation that resulted in a published book, and an annual national conference for graduate students studying the Civil War, who will become the future teachers and scholars in the field.

Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts, said ''I congratulate the Richards Center and its faculty and alumni volunteers on this success. Even beyond the ways that this will promote understanding of the Civil War, the NEH Challenge Grant provides a unique opportunity to better advance the public’s understanding of the humanities overall and to more effectively reach all of our constituencies: the scholarly community in the discipline, our undergraduate and graduate students at Penn State, school teachers and their students, and the public at large.''

More information about the Richards Center is available to http://www.richardscenter.psu.edu/ online.

Last Updated January 18, 2011