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The Sweet Science / 5/31

May 31, 2017

Frank Deford, America’s most celebrated sportswriter, died on Memorial Day, May 29, at age seventy-eight. Deford, whose best work was published by Sports Illustrated, had no peer within the sportswriting fraternity as a long-form storyteller. His profiles of sports personalities consumed thousands of words but never ran too long because they were beautifully paced and as poignant as the finest fiction.

Deford was versatile. He covered all manner of sports. But he wrote very little about boxing because he did not like it. “I despise boxing and have never altogether understood what attracts other writers to its brutality,” he wrote in a letter to his colleague John Schulian. Years later, in one of his weekly commentaries for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” Deford rued that the overriding story line of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight was money, money, money. “This particular match,” he wrote, “has become the tackiest sports event this side of hot dog eating.”

Sports Illustrated has been around since 1954. Over the years, the magazine has employed some splendid boxing writers — William Nack, Mark Kram, Ralph Wiley, Pat Putnam, Richard Hoffer, and others – but ironically, the man who didn’t like boxing, Frank Deford, authored what is considered the best boxing story to ever appear in that August publication.

“The Boxer and the Blonde,” which ran on June 17, 1985, is centered on former light heavyweight champion Billy Conn, then in his late sixties, but focuses less on Conn’s boxing career than on his family and his ties to the city of Pittsburgh. When Deford re-visits the last few rounds of Conn’s first fight with Joe Louis – on a warm night at the Polo Grounds just before America entered the war “and the world went to hell” – one can almost feel the goosebumps as Conn brews an improbable upset that is ultimately short-circuited.

Deford appreciated good writing in others. He thought the best piece ever written under the pressure of a tight deadline was Mark Kram’s story of the “Thrilla’ in Manila.” Titled “Lawdy, Lawdy He’s Great,” it was the Oct. 13, 1975 Sports Illustrated cover story.

In 2012, Frank Deford was presented with the National Humanities Medal by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first sportswriter accorded this honor.

Latest NEH in the News

Posted: March 16, 2018 Roanoke conference brings in experts to explore issues faced by veterans and their families
Roanoke Times

When veterans and their families return to civilian life they face challenges that largely go unexplored by the nation’s intellectuals.

Virginia Tech English professor James Dubinsky said some universities are changing that and are beginning to study veterans much the same way that a generation ago they began women’s studies and African-American studies programs.

Dubinsky said Tech’s Liberal Arts College and University Libraries is working toward building a veterans studies program. Two other universities — Arizona State University and the University of Missouri at St. Louis — are further along in creating similar programs and are co-sponsors of the forum. Tech also has won support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Mostly at universities where veterans are being studied, only one or two professors in history, psychology, sociology, arts at universities are looking at the issues, he said. The conference gives them a chance to connect with each other and with the people they are studying.

Posted: March 16, 2018 Macedon library receives Founding Era grant
Daily Messenger

Macedon Public Library recently received a Revisiting the Founding Era grant to implement public programming and community conversations that explore America’s founding and its enduring themes.

The library will receive 10 copies of a reader containing scholarly essays on selected historical documents from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, $1,000 to help implement programs and additional digital resources, training and support from Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and American Library Association.

These resources will allow Macedon Public Library to launch a program series on the Founding Era. This includes three presentations planned for June and July by Laura Free, of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Richard Newman, of Rochester Institute of Technology, for adults and Matthew Robbins, an Advanced Placement history teacher at Palmyra-Macedon High School, for teens in high school.

Revisiting the Founding Era is a three-year national initiative of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, presented in partnership with ALA and National Constitution Center with support from National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant provides 100 public libraries across the country the opportunity to use historical documents to spark public conversations about the Founding Era’s ideas and themes and how they continue to influence lives today.

Posted: March 16, 2018 National Humanities Alliance annual meeting

Dr. David Trowbridge, an associate professor of history at Marshall University and creator of Clio, was one of four scholars invited to share his work at the 2018 annual meeting of the National Humanities Alliance in Washington, D.C., March 12.

Trowbridge was joined by scholars working to interpret history and preserve heritage sites in the United States, the Middle East and Central Europe. The panel was organized by Daniel Fisher, project director for the National Humanities Alliance, in order to demonstrate the importance of the humanities and highlight the ways that universities and foundations are supporting public engagement though the humanities.

 “We were very pleased that Dr. Trowbridge was able to join this distinguished group of publicly engaged humanities scholars,” Fisher said. “Clio shows what is possible when experts collaborate with the community. The Clio website and mobile app offer scholars and organizations a way to share expertise about local history with the world.”

 The panel was organized around the theme of “Changing Narratives about the Humanities in Higher Education” and featured projects supported by the Whiting Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Trowbridge discussed efforts at Marshall to create Clio, a website and mobile application that universities, libraries, historical societies and museums use to connect people to the history and culture that surround them.

Posted: March 15, 2018 Prof. Azade Seyhan Receives NEH Fellowship to Support Research for New Book
Bryn Mawr College News

Fairbank Professor in the Humanities and Chair and Professor of German and Comparative Literature Azade Seyhan has received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship to support her research. The title of Seyhan's project is "The Exodus of German Culture to Turkey, 1933–1945." The project will be a book-length analysis on academic exiles from Hitler’s Germany and the Turkish higher educational institutions in which they took refuge.

Posted: March 15, 2018 Vanderbilt advocates for humanities funding
Vanderbilt University News

Mona Frederick, executive director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, and Christina West, assistant vice chancellor for federal relations, attended the National Humanities Alliance’s annual meeting and advocacy day March 12 in Washington, D.C., and met with members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation as well as several other congressional offices with ties to Vanderbilt to advocate for robust federal humanities funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

“We are grateful to have such strong support for the NEH on Capitol Hill,” Frederick said. “It’s important to remind our members of Congress of the importance of the Endowment and to thank them for their continued support.”

This year’s keynote speaker at the NHA meeting was Jon Parrish Peede, senior deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, who recently was nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as NEH chairman. Before joining the NEH, Peede served as publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review from 2011 to 2016 and was on the staff of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2011. A Vanderbilt University alumnus, Peede graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in English and later earned a master’s degree in Southern studies from the University of Mississippi.

“The NEH has been such an important partner when it comes to academic research in the humanities—research that has enriched and enhanced communities throughout the nation and throughout Tennessee,” West said. “We look forward to a continued mutually beneficial relationship with the NEH.”