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National Endowment for the Humanities Awards Faculty Members $140K-Plus in Grants

Quick Facts

 The two grants for Winthrop's three faculty members make up more than $140,000.

Laura Gardner
Laura Dufresne
Gregg Hecimovich
ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA — According to Winthrop University’s Laura Dufresne, her feet, and those of colleague Laura Gardner, “have not quite touched the ground yet” these past two weeks.

That’s because the two fine arts faculty members and the Department of English’s Gregg Hecimovich have been awarded grants totaling more than $140,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Each year, the NEH provides funding for various scholarly projects including traveling exhibitions, professional development opportunities, collaborative humanities research and more.

Of the $36.6 million the NEH has awarded in grants for 2016, recognized Winthrop projects make up the following:

• $93,129 to Gardner, associate professor of fine arts, and Dufresne, professor of fine arts, for a 2016 summer seminar for college and university teachers that will be held in Asheville, North Carolina.

The seminar, "Take Note and Remember: The Commonplace Book and Scrapbook," involves a transdisciplinary investigation of how humans managed information overload and made sense of the world before the current digital age. Gardner and Dufresne will work with seminar participants to explore how commonplace books—records of lives, ideas, notes and bits recorded over time—and their descendant, the scrapbook, “act as holders of meaning, memory, identity and place.” Famous figures such as Susan B. Anthony, Mark Twain and Leonardo da Vinci created commonplace books in their lifetimes.

The Asheville seminar setting is a perfect location, as Gardner said the area has a history of strong arts and health communities.

• $50,400 to Professor of English Gregg Hecimovich and recognition as a NEH Public Scholar for his work on “The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman’s Narrative.” Crafts is considered America’s first black female novelist, and the book will tell the story of her life and the search for her identity.

Hecimovich learned of the manuscript when Henry Louis Gates Jr. purchased it in 2001. Though Gates had authenticated the manuscript and published it to great fanfare, Hecimovich and his students eventually identified the author and traced previously unknown details about her life.

Hecimovich has spent the past academic year working on his book in residence as a Sheila Biddle Ford Fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

All three faculty members are thrilled about their NEH honors, to say the least.

“I never could have brought my project to this point without the daily support of my students, colleagues and fellow administrators,” Hecimovich said. “Together both projects highlight the powerful way the humanities shape our lives, not just in the past, but in the present and foreseeable future. Winthrop is a wonderful place to collaborate, create and think outside the box. I hope this additional recognition will help us further shine a light on what Winthrop faculty and students practice every day: scholarship that is public, leading and accessible to everyone.”

Gardner agreed.

“We are elated at the ripple effect of the grant beyond us: for fine arts, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, Winthrop, alumni who will be working us, interdisciplinary studies and the humanities,” she said. “The circle is wide. What a day for Winthrop!”

For more information, contact Nicole Chisari, communications coordinator, at 803/323-2236 or

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