The Center for Humanistic Studies at the University of Kansas was founded in 1976, with the agreement of the Kansas Board of Regents. It became the Hall Center for the Humanities in 1983 after receiving a major endowment gift from the Hall Family Foundation of Kansas City, which matched a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Faculty enhancement was the focus of the 1983 Challenge Grant.
The 1983 endowment created four Hall Distinguished Professorships in American History, American Art, American Literature, and French Literature. It also provides support for faculty research at all stages, from initial research to writing to publication.
From the beginning, an executive committee of faculty was formed to advise the Director on policy issues, and from 1983 an advisory board of prominent citizens from the region was added to give further guidance.
In 1994, the Center established the Humanities Resource Center to assist faculty with external grant proposals. Four years later, a full-time grant development officer was appointed to direct and expand the service. In July 2000, the unit changed its name to the Humanities Grant Development Office (HGDO.)
In December 2000, the Hall Center received a second Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop new community-focused programs. The Center successfully matched the NEH challenge grant of $500,000 with $2 million in private funds. We owe a particular debt to the Hall Family Foundation, the Forest C. Lattner Foundation, the Simons Family of Lawrence, and the Sias family of Oklahoma City. Other people also contributed, including members of our advisory board and executive committee, and many KU faculty.
The new endowment allows the Center to offer programs in the humanities to communities throughout Kansas and its border states, and to work in partnership with these communities. We also work in collaboration with the Kansas Humanities Council, the Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas City Public Library, and Haskell Indian Nations University. The entire focus of the Challenge Grant rests on the belief that we must demonstrate through public service that it is precisely the humanities that are relevant and instructive with regard to the fundamental issues we deal with as individuals and communities.
In January 2005, the Hall Center moved into a new home, a two-story building of 14,000 square feet, which includes a 90-seat conference hall, a seminar room, and offices for research fellows and administrative staff. The design of the new Center preserves and utilizes the nine limestone arches from the south façade of the old KU powerhouse. The new structure was made possible by a major gift from the Hall Family Foundation and by additional university funds. The new Hall Center was dedicated on April 9, 2005.
In 2011, the Hall Center was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant to develop programs that will advance collaborative, interdisciplinary research and model methods for collaboration among scholars in the humanities. With this infusion of funds, the Center will incorporate two new intergrated initiatives into its core programming: Research Collaboratives and Scholars on Site. These initiatives align with the University's current institution-wide Strategic Planning for Excellence initiative and connect directly with the incentives for research collaboration that are accepted components of the University's new comprehensive capital campaign.
With the support of the University, the State of Kansas, the Hall Family Foundation and other private foundations, and NEH Challenge Grants, the Hall Center has made a signal contribution for over 25 years to humanistic inquiry and interdisciplinary scholarship in the Central Plains region of the United States.