John Churchill, who is secretary of the national Phi Beta Kappa academic honorary society, will present the address “The What, the How, and the Why: the Arts and Sciences as Transformative Experience” on Wednesday, March 25, at 4 p.m. at Hope College in the Maas Center auditorium.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Churchill, who serves as the society’s chief executive officer and head of its national office, will deliver the public lecture while on campus for a series of meetings with members of the campus community. He is speaking in conjunction with Phi Beta Kappa’s multi-year National Arts and Sciences Initiative, launched in December to demonstrate that a broad-based arts and sciences education—the traditional core of higher learning¬—expands opportunity, drives ingenuity and innovation, and makes a strong investment in America.
Hope is one of only 283 colleges and universities nationwide, and among only eight institutions in Michigan, to have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, which is the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized collegiate honor society. The college’s Zeta of Michigan chapter was chartered in 1971.
The purpose of the national society, which was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, is to advocate and recognize excellence in the study of the liberal arts and sciences. Institutions that have a chapter, fewer than 10 percent of America’s colleges and universities, have earned the right by demonstrating that the liberal arts and sciences are at the center of their educational program, and by showing that excellence in such studies is achieved, maintained and celebrated.
The national Phi Beta Kappa organization played a leadership role in development of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), each of which is marking its 50th anniversary this year. In 1963, Phi Beta Kappa was one of three scholarly and educational organizations, along with the American Council of Learned Societies and the Council of Graduate Schools in America, that joined together to establish the National Commission on the Humanities that subsequently recommended establishment of a national humanities foundation. President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, which led to the creation of the NEH and NEA, on Sept. 29, 1965.
Churchill was born in Hector, Arkansas, and was reared in Little Rock. He was educated at Rhodes College, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, at the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and at Yale University, where he was awarded the Ph.D. in 1978.
Churchill was formerly vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Hendrix College, where he also served as professor of philosophy and twice as interim president. In the 1970s, he served as assistant American secretary to the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, and has been active since that time in the selection of Rhodes Scholars.
His scholarly interests include the philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and David Hume, as well as topics in the history of philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of liberal education.
His publications include several dozen articles in these and related fields in journals in the U.S. and the U.K., book chapters in the U.S. and Germany, several dozen reviews and critical notes, as well as essays and stories in the popular press and college magazines. He has taught courses in the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, logic, ethics, Wittgenstein, Hume and interdisciplinary topics involving texts from philosophy, literature, religion, history, and the classics. He writes a weekly blog for Phi Beta Kappa titled From the Secretary, available on the ΦBK website.
Churchill’s professional activities have included membership on the Board of Directors of the American Conference of Academic Deans and the Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, founding head of the Arkansas Governor's School's Area II, service as chair of the Council of Deans of the Associated Colleges of the South, and editorial work for The Thomist , The Southern Journal of Philosophy , The International Philosophical Quarterly , and Choice magazine. He was a Danforth Foundation associate, a program review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for 13 years a consultant/evaluator and team chair for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. He is a former president of the National Humanities Alliance and a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C.
Churchill is married to Jean Hill Churchill, and they have three children: Will, Mary Katherine and Hugh.
The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.