Ken Burns Spends An Evening in Support of the Humanities at Saint Anselm College

May 3, 2022

By Anna Brennan-Curry

On Saturday, April 30, 2022 more than 350 members of the Anselmian community gathered at Sullivan Arena to attend an evening of conversation with award-winning documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. The evening benefited the campaign to build a permanent home for the Gregory J. Grappone ’04 Humanities Institute, where future conversations will take place for many years to come.

“It is fitting that we come together at this time, when it often seems our divisions are greater than our commonalities, to reflect on our shared humanity,” said Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D. President, Saint Anselm College. “May we leave this evening feeling more hopeful about the future and perhaps a bit clearer about the work we must all do to animate that future.”

The conversation between Burns and Dr. Gary Bouchard, executive director of the Humanities Institute, covered a wide range of topics: the state of humanities, the world, and what kind of life Burns strives to lead.

“I think that when humanity itself is in crisis, which is nearly all the time, the humanities are, a priori, in crisis. In fact, the humanities are thriving,” explained Burns. “We live in an era, where we have become economic units, not spiritual beings. Something has to rescue us from that. The only thing we have, to do that, is the humanities.”

Burns also answered the question every first-year Saint Anselm student has to answer in their Conversatio seminar – “what is the good life?” Burns replied with a quote from Benjamin Franklin speaking about his belief in God.

The conversation was part of a fundraising gala to support a permanent home for the Humanities Institute at Saint Anselm College. Burns, is an honorary co-chair of the campaign.

“Tonight, Bev and I have been able to bring together two of the treasures in our lives, in all of our lives: Ken Burns and Saint Anselm College,” explained Robert Grappone P ’04, HD ’21, co-chair of the Humanities Institute campaign. “We have done so because we are determined to fulfill the vision of our son Greg, who spent his brief lifetime seeking to understand the world around him. He wanted others to share in the transformative experience of the humanities as he had.”

The new home for the Humanities will be located in the old Boiler House at the center of campus. It will contain a large, state-of-the-art classroom, a seminar instruction room, a flexible, common meeting and exhibition space, a newly restored and landscaped courtyard, and modest administrative office space. It will be the first structure that visitors encounter upon exiting the new Savard Welcome Center and will be a visible reminder of the central place of the humanities in the life of Saint Anselm College.

“Study of the Humanities is at the heart of the Saint Anselm experience,” said Joseph Loughrey, HD ’15, chair of the Saint Anselm College board of trustees. “It provides the foundation for life no matter what career a student chooses by enabling each student to grapple with life’s basic questions in a strong, caring Benedictine community.”

As of Saturday, the campaign has raised $2.7 million with a campaign goal of $2 million. Construction is anticipated to begin in June of 2022.

Many thanks to the sponsors of the event: Robert J. and Beverly Grappone P ’04, HD ’21, Kenneth J. ’69 and Beryl Goodchild, Grappone Automotive Group, Richard H. Letarte, C.P.A. ’65, Milestone Engineering & Construction, Amoskeag Beverages, Inc., Catholic Medical Center, CGI Business Solutions, John F. Fisher and Sally Anzelc Fisher, Fisher McGlothin Group at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Kevin R. ’00 and Sarah Fitzgerald, Dr. Joseph Pepe ’83 and Anne-Marie (Fitzgerald) Pepe ’83, Joseph E. Sweeney ’83 and Kathleen A. (Clifford) Sweeney ’85, J. Paul Theroux ’65, and three anonymous donors.

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