University of Kansas Receives $1.5 Million for Melville Professorship

The University of Kansas has announced a $1.5 million pledge from professor emerita Elizabeth Schultz to establish the Herman Melville Distinguished Professorship in its Department of English.

Schultz, who taught at the university from 1967 to 2001, designed the professorship to attract a scholar who will teach one or more of the great American writers of the mid-nineteenth century — Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walt Whitman — with a focus on Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick.

Over her years of teaching works by Melville, Moby-Dick always remained relevant to her students, said Schultz, raising new and significant cultural and philosophical questions. From the Vietnam War to issues of race, gender, environmentalism, and feminism, Schultz appreciated the novel's relevance to many facets of American culture and was inspired to endow the professorship after she and fellow Melville scholar Haskell Springe retired and the novel stopped appearing on departmental reading lists.

"The test of a great work of literature is that it never wears out — the questions it raises are good for all times and all people," Schultz said. "Moby-Dick has been deeply important to many thoughtful people in the United States and around the world, and this gift is a way of sharing with the future."