Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Maine's Hayden Anderson

Magazine article Humanities

In Focus: Maine's Hayden Anderson

Article excerpt

In 1997, while working on his doctoral thesis about philosopher Immanuel Kant's theory of experience, Hayden Anderson took second prize at the Chester, New Hampshire, Fair for his blueberry pie, lo this day, he believes he might have taken the blue ribbon had the judge sliced a piece of his pie instead of plunging a spoon directly into the middle of it. One of the distinctive features of a Hayden Anderson pie is that it holds together nicely and does not run all over the plate, a virtue of coherence lost on the spoon plunger.

Asked to what he ascribes his success as a pie baker. Anderson quips philosophically and facetiously, "Practice and purity of thinking."

In fact, however, the combination of high-mindedness and handiness and idealism and practicality recommended Hayden Anderson to become the executive director of the Maine Humanities Council.

"We had a nationwide search in 201 I that attracted one hundred and four candidates," says Maine Humanities Council chair Peter Webster, a Portland attorney. "We selected Hayden because we were impressed by his youthful charm, his intelligence, and his enthusiasm. It was a spectacular choice."

Anderson grew up in Londonderry, New Hampshire, majored in philosophy at Amherst and earned his PhD in philosophy at Notre Dame in 2000. By the time he graduated, however, he had decided he did not want to pursue an academic career. He felt more drawn to a life of community involvement.

"I found my home in the nonprofit universe," says Anderson, who worked as an administrator and fundraiser in summer camps, higher education, and legal aid before taking over the helm of Maine's council in 2012.

Though the council employs a development director, Anderson's background in development comes in handy at the council, where the $ 1.4 million annual budget is supported both with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from private sources.

"I see my role," says Anderson, "as removing barriers, clearing the ground for our staff and scholars to do their work."

One of the Maine Humanities Council's high profile programs is Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare, a book group series aimed at an array of healthcare workers ranging from doctors and nurses to technicians and clerks. Started in 1997, Literature & Medicine has since spread beyond Maine's borders, and, in 2008, the Maine council published Imagine What It's Like, a 650-page anthology of readings on illness, trauma, death, and recovery. …

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