Benefactors Day began under the directorship of Dr. Mairi Rennie in 1999 as a way to thank friends and donors--"Guardian Angels"--for their generosity. Rennie chose September as the time of celebration because it was also the Brownings' wedding month. Each Benefactors Day, the Armstrong Browning Library showcases acquisitions resulting from donors' gracious gifts over the past year and features a special program with a guest speaker.
For 2009, Benefactors Day will take place on September 17, at 2:30 p.m. This year's guest speaker, Joshua S. King, assistant professor of English, will discuss how he inspires his students through the resources of the Armstrong Browning Library. A specialist in 18th- and 19th-century poetry, he received his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2008 before coming to Baylor. "Out of the jobs I interviewed for this is the one that most appealed to me," he says. "What seems ... unique to me is the Christian heritage and the fact that many of the scholars and teachers here wish to integrate their faith into their scholarship, teaching and life."
King sends his students to the ABL with a mission to develop knowledge from different kinds of sources and to think independently about the meaning of those relationships. "One day, perhaps very soon, your textbooks for this class will be sold or misplaced; your lecture notes committed to the trash; and your memory of facts from exams irreparably blurred. But in my mind these things aren't what you should most want to retain," King said in notes to his English 2301 class. "Most essential are the habits and capacities that you have trained by careful reading and the desire for intellectual adventure which I hope our literary pilgrimage has stimulated."
Each semester, King charges his students to do one of several integration projects for their final grade. Some of these projects involve comparison, analysis, or interpretation of literary works, art, artifacts, or primary sources. Others involve an imaginary response to an author or a work on the class syllabus. All of them require original thought and careful reasoning. "It's not just about students doing a mandatory tour [of the ABL] and then forgetting about it," he emphasizes.
Preceding the lecture and discussion, Carlos Colón will direct a string quartet in a medley of classical pieces with soprano Jennifer Carron performing. Carron previously delighted an audience at the ABL last May at the Browning Day concert. Two of the pieces will be performed for the first time: "Light" by James Bennighof, professor of music theory and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Policy, and "Could Ye Bless Him?" by Carlos Colón, based on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "A Child Asleep."
A reception will follow the program. This event is free and open to the public.