Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Native Gets Gift to Study Humanities Mellon Foundation Awards $1.5 Million

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Native Gets Gift to Study Humanities Mellon Foundation Awards $1.5 Million

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Humphrey, Times-Union staff writer

A Jacksonville native's decision to study philosophy, to ponder the great questions of life, has paid off. Big time.

Robert Pippin, a University of Chicago philosopher and 1966 graduate of Bishop Kenny High School, has received up to $1.5 million to advance his research in the humanities. The dollar figure, often reserved for studying science or medicine, signals an exciting development for Pippin and four other recipients across the country.

The gifts, given by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, enable the professors to spend the next three years focusing on research. They can award assistantships to talented graduate students, organize conferences and essentially travel to wherever their work takes them.

"I've got a lot of new friends all of a sudden," Pippin said this week.

The Mellon Distinguished Achievement Awards are each worth $500,000 annually for three years, totaling $7.5 million in support of humanities research. The Mellon grant, in its first year, is worth more financially than the better-known Nobel and MacArthur prizes.

"It's great that foundations are willing to support the humanities," said Andrew Buchwalter, chairman of the philosophy department at the University of North Florida. "The humanities reflect on who we are as human beings and are also a central focus of what academics are all about."

And the humanities are just as important as science, contends Pippin, 53.

"Science can't answer the questions of what to do with the enormous power it gives us," Pippin said, citing ethical issues that accompany advances such as the ability to clone. "It can just give us those powers."

Pippin has focused much of his research on German philosophers such as Kant and Nietzsche, drawing from theories written in the 1700s and 1800s to better understand modern society.

Pippin's mother, who has lived in the same Westside home for 45 years, is obviously proud of her eldest son. …

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