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A Pair of W&L Professors Awarded Grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities Melissa Kerin and Barton Myers will each receive $6,000 to support their research projects.

Kerin-Myers-600x400 A Pair of W&L Professors Awarded Grants by the National Endowment for the HumanitiesMelissa Kerin and Barton Myers

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that Washington and Lee University faculty members Melissa Kerin and Barton Myers have each been selected to receive summer stipend grants to support their research in the humanities.

The NEH’s summer stipend program aims to stimulate new research in the humanities and its publication by providing a maximum award of $6,000 to support continuous work on a humanities project for a period of two consecutive months.

An associate professor of art history, Kerin’s project investigates the significance and role of painted patron portraits in the western Himalayan region of India. The scene at the center of Kerin’s NEH-supported research is in a Buddhist temple in the village of Basgo, the once-royal enclave of Ladakh, India. She will utilize this research to author an article titled “Turbans and Turquoise: 17th-Century Painted Patron Scenes at Basgo’s Chamchung Temple in Ladakh, India.”

Like many Buddhist wall painting programs of the medieval period, a small portion of one wall is dedicated to a scene depicting the temple’s sponsors. Kerin argues these painted vignettes are rich with social and cultural information about the actions and agents of courtly Buddhist rituals and all its attending fanfare.

“The Summer NEH stipend will allow me to identify and analyze the socio-religious crosscurrents informing the production and articulation of this scene,” Kerin said. “Of particular interest for me is an examination of how the materiality – through costume and adornment, hence ‘turbans and turquoise’ – reflects hitherto unanalyzed visual information about the formulation of social hierarchies, gender roles, cultural exchange and cosmopolitan awareness.”

Myers is a professor of history and his stipend will support research that will eventually lead to a book on southern-born military officers who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War. This project is titled “Champions of the Union: Lincoln’s Southern Commanders and the American Civil War Era.”

Myers’ research will examine a diverse collection of Civil War participants whose experiences provide new insight into the meaning and definition of “Union” in practice. The project’s central focus is the political loyalty and the wartime contributions of Abraham Lincoln’s southern-born generals and admirals. This group was critically important not only to victory in the war but also to Lincoln’s argument about what was worth preserving in the American Union.

“I’m grateful to the NEH for this support,” said Myers. “Without these types of grants from NEH, scholars across the humanities disciplines would struggle to complete their pioneering research. I’ll use the funds specifically to complete important research at the National Archives and Records Administration, and a number of other regional manuscript archives in the coming months.”

Each year, institutions of higher education may nominate faculty members to receive summer stipends and this year W&L succeeded in receiving awards for both nominees despite high demand. Over the last five years, there was an average of 812 applications per year with an annual funding ratio of 11 percent. For 2023, the NEH awarded 98 summer stipend grants totaling $588,000. All told, the NEH awarded grants for 258 humanities projects totaling $35.63 million.

Kerin is in her 12th year as a faculty member at W&L. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College (Connecticut), a master’s degree from the Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Myers has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2013 and is currently on sabbatical for the 2022-23 academic year. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Georgia. 

W&L faculty interested in being considered for nomination for NEH’s 2024 Summer Stipend Program must submit a project summary to Corporate and Foundation Relations by July 31. For more information, contact cfr@wlu.edu.

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