This Luther College professorship is named in honor of Dennis M. Jones (1932-90), beloved former Luther professor of English and English Department Head. Jones, a native Texan, came to Luther in 1965 after earning his B.A. from Baylor University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa. Early in his distinguished career at Luther College, Dennis Jones was awarded a postdoctoral Danforth Fellowship in Afro-American Studies at Yale University for 1969-70. He was instrumental in developing the Black Studies Program and was a strong supporter of the Black Studies Department, now called the Africana Studies Department. He taught a variety of courses in American, African, African-American, and British literature.
As an exchange professor in 1984-85, Professor Jones taught the Enlish course at the District Hogskole (liberal arts college) and the Laerarhogskole (teachers' college) in Stavanger, Norway. In the summer of 1989, just two months after being honored at Luther for completing twenty-five years of teaching, he died very suddenly of a heart attack while leading a walking tour of Norway with his wife Beth and some friends. A thoughtful person, dedicated teacher, helpful colleague, and jovial friend, Dennis is still missed at the College.
In the early 1990s, the NEH gave Luther College a $150,000 challenge grant for a distinguished teaching professorship in the humanities. Since Dennis Jones had written or supported several NEH grants for humanities education, the endowed professorship was named in his honor.
The Jones Distinguished Teaching Professorship is a two-year award to a member of the Luther faculty who honors the values and traditions of the humanities, engages significant issues in a humanities discipline, demonstrates the ability to nurture the intellectual life of students and provides academic leadership in the humanities. The Jones Professor devotes part of his/her professional time to a project that will enhance humanities education.
The English Department is proud that a great number of the named Jones professors have been members of the English department. We list here those professors and their Jones projects.
Mary Hull Mohr (1995-96), the second Jones Professor and now Emerita Professor of English, designed a project to study the teaching in Luther's common first-year course, Paideia I, which was then an interdisciplinary course in English and history, writing and research. Professor Mohr visited all Paideia sections and noted how the instructor articulated the goals for the class day, how the common lecture material was integrated into the discussion, and how the day's discussion was integrated into the course's thematic unit. She compared the approaches of English and history faculty in attempting to determine pedagogical differences. She also designed a summer faculty development workshop about Paideia I for faculty members outside the Paideia I faculty. Participants read and discussed several of the central works in the Paideia curriculum, including Sophocles' Antigone (c. 442 B. C.) , Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516), Lu Xun's "The New Year's Sacrifice" (c. 1924), Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Exposition Address (1895, rpt. in Up From Slavery, 1901), and W. E. B. DuBois's "Of Our Spiritual Strivings" (from The Souls of Black Folk, 1903).
As the college's sixth Jones Professor, Carol Gilbertson (2002-04), now Professor Emerita, developed the Luther Poetry Project, which was designed to raise campus awareness of poetry's power and relevance. The project included regular Friday afternoon poetry readings (Poems 4 Friday) by students and faculty; visits by guest poets, including Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky; chapel series based on poems; a new general education course, Poems for Life; and a summer workshop for faculty from across the disciplines. Professor Gilbertson wrote a regular student newspaper column discussing poems in relation to political and social issues and composed poems for campus events.
Diane Scholl (2004-06), Professor of English and seventh Jones Professor, developed a project designed to promote cross-disciplinary discussion, specifically to integrate science and humanities disciplines. The project involved a series of book discussions over the two year period—led by faculty from both disciplines—on titles that included (among others) Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, Oliver Sach's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Yann Martel's The Life of Pi, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Ian McEwan's Saturday. Professor Scholl also hosted two reader's theater presentations: Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and Michael Frayn's Copenhagen. She hosted a lecture/demonstration on science and the visual arts and a lecture on medicine and the humanities. One goal was to promote interdisciplinary courses, and to develop a bibliography of suggested texts.
Professor of English David Faldet's project as eighth Jones Professor (2007-09) was to reconsider human connections to the natural environment. His writing during the professorship included up finishing his book Oneota Flow: The Upper Iowa River and its People, publishing a biweekly "Field Notices" series about the campus environment in the college newspaper (at https://sites.google.com/a/luther.edu/dsfaldet/field-notices—chips-columns), and writing a series of local history pieces for Decorah Newspapers. His research project was to consider how ideas of the environment began to shift in the work of Victorian writers such as Eliot, Hopkins, and Hardy as part of a distinctly English tradition of empiricism. His public outreach for the project in the first year helped people at Luther better connect with the local environment. When participants read Diane Ackerman's Natural History of the Senses they did an embodiment workshop with Jane Hawley of Theatre/Dance and had a sense-rich banquet. When they read the Audubon Field Guide to Eastern Forests they heard a short lecture on ecology by Biology professor Beth Lynch, followed by a walk that reconsidered the campus landscape, and a banquet featuring forest produce. Faldet also brought in experts from different communities. Ojibwe author David Treuer gave the 2008 fall convocation address and did a reading from his book The Translation of Dr. Apelles. A group of authors read from their collection, Eating In Place, Telling the Story of Local Foods. Bronx community organizer Majora Carter presented a spring distinguished lecture on her work to green her New York neighborhood. Environmental philosopher David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, did a campus workshop and lecture, and a number of persons from across campus read his book.
Mark Z. Muggli, the tenth Jones Professor (2011-13) and now Professor Emeritus of English, developed the "Our Shakespeare" project, which aimed to nurture our community’s rediscovery of the range, power, and wisdom of Shakespeare’s art. The project included student and faculty workshops, attendance at area performances, “Shakespeare Across the Curriculum” classroom visits, an outdoors reading of Shakespeare’s sonnets spread out across a semester, a “Faith in Shakespeare” Chapel series, film showings, regular student newspaper columns, and a number of local dance and theatre performances that made 2013 the “Shakespearianest” year in Luther College history. The project was made visible through a widely-distributed bookmark that included the project logo. For details on the project initiatives, click here.
For information on all current Endowed Professorships at Luther, see the Dean's Office website.