Today we have a guest post by Dr. Larry Allums on the Hiett Prize in the Humanities. Dr. Larry Allums is Executive Director of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. He earned his M.A. in Literature and his Ph.D. in Literature and Political Philosophy from the University of Dallas’ Institute of Philosophic Studies. During his tenure, he has directed the creation of several new Institute programs, including the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Symposium, and The Dallas Festival of Ideas in partnership with The Dallas Morning News.
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To my knowledge, the Hiett Prize in the Humanities is unique in seeking out candidates who are in the early stages of careers devoted to the humanities, that is, when a person really needs it most. It’s the opposite of a lifetime achievement award, and the $50,000 check that comes with the recognition is a great boost for the winner.
Another distinguishing feature of the Hiett Prize is that it rewards work that not only shows extraordinary promise but also has a significant public component related to contemporary culture. We understand that colleges and universities are natural repositories of the great riches of the humanities, but existing as it does midway between “town and gown,” the Dallas Institute wants to bring those riches from the classroom into the practical life of the city.
All Hiett applicants must reside in the U.S., and their work must be focused primarily within the humanities. Beyond that, there are few restrictions, and the application process is simple. To be considered, a person must be nominated by someone whose career in the humanities is well established; submission requirements are a CV, a narrative of work accomplished to date, and a narrative setting out future projects. After the deadline, all applications are reviewed and evaluated in a two-tiered process—a First Round followed by a Final Round—by Fellows of the Dallas Institute, who serve as Hiett judges.
Our 2015 Hiett winner Dr. Scott Samuelson perfectly exemplifies the kind of candidate we’re looking for. Scott’s academic credentials are impeccable. He studied philosophy at Grinnell College, where he got his BA, and Emory University, where he earned his PhD. Since 2000 he has taught at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. In 2014 he was named Distinguished Humanities Educator by the Community College Humanities Association and, inspired by his students, wrote his first book The Deepest Human Life: An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone, which has been popular with philosophers and non-philosophers alike. It’s currently being translated into Chinese and Portuguese.
Scott has published articles in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Philosopher’s Magazine, and Christian Century. His article “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers” in The Atlantic has been widely circulated. He’s been interviewed on NPR and given various public lectures and talks, including a TEDx talk “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life.”
He also writes movie reviews for Little Village and hosts Ethical Perspectives on the News, a Sunday-morning talk show on KCRG, the local ABC affiliate. For a decade he moonlighted as a sous-chef at Simone’s Plain and Simple, a French restaurant on a gravel road. On top of his job at Kirkwood, he teaches philosophy at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (a.k.a. Oakdale Prison). He’s currently working on his second book, Seven Ways of Looking at Pointless Suffering.
We’ll award Scott Samuelson the 2015 Hiett Prize in the Humanities and hand him a check on November 10th during a luncheon in Dallas, and we’ll also hear him speak about his work. We’re grateful to Kim and to the young people across America who dare to follow their passions and immerse themselves—for life—in the humanities.
- Dr. Larry Allums