Robb Crouch
director of public relations, University of Nebraska Foundation; Office 402.458.1142; Mobile, 402.304.3085; rcrouch@nufoundation.org

The University of Nebraska at Kearney has received $520,000 for a professorship to support faculty members in the College of Fine Arts and Humanities’ philosophy program. Named in recognition of a renowned philosopher and writer, the Albertus Magnus Chair of Philosophy was established by an anonymous benefactor as a permanently endowed fund at the University of Nebraska of Foundation.

The university awarded the first chair to Gene Fendt, professor of philosophy, who has taught at UNK for 25 years.

“It is a very humbling thought to hold the Albertus Magnus Chair of Philosophy dedicated to one of the greatest teachers and scholars of human history,” Fendt said.

Fendt said the award can be compared to the saying, “we see so far because we stand on the shoulders of giants.” He said the only way to actually get on the shoulders of giants is to climb up there by one’s own study, aided by teachers who have climbed them before.

“Perhaps we have, in our climbing, only just surmounted the nail of the big toe or are perched uncomfortably on the kneecap,” Fendt said. “I figure, in comparison with Albert, I may well be resting on the big toe.”

David Rozema, professor and director of the philosophy program, said the endowed chair will help ensure the program continues sharing with students the greatest works in philosophy and literature, from antiquity to the present.

“This professorship, along with our previously established endowments, is a testimony to the deep and lasting worth of a truly liberating education,” Rozema said. “It’s an education taking place between two souls, engaging both heart and mind, demanding the involvement of at least three persons—the student, the author and the teacher—with the common aim being the discovery of truths that are both universally and personally significant.”

Recipients of the Albertus Magnus Chair of Philosophy hold the award for five-year appointments and receive an annual salary and research support stipend, which is made available from the endowment.

Also known as Albert the Great, Albertus Magnus was a German Dominican friar and bishop who was among the first individuals in the West to gain access to Aristotle’s works. He wrote analyses on almost all of Aristotle’s works and saw them as works that advocated for the peaceful coexistence of science and religion. As a philosopher, one of his most significant achievements was a solution to the problem of universals that eschewed both nominalism and simple realism.

Fendt has written six books about Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, Kant and Kierkegaard and the topic of Aesthetics, and he’s regularly invited to present at international conferences. He’s published more than 30 papers in academic journals and is a published poet and playwright. One of his plays was recently performed at the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln. He’s also recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council. Before UNK he taught at the University of Texas and Marquette University.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that has connected the dreams and passions of donors to the mission of the university for more than 75 years. In 2011, donors gave a record $172 million in gifts for scholarships, academic programs, medical research and other priorities at the university. The foundation’s $1.2 billion fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, concludes in 2014. For more information, visit nufoundation.org.