The Columns

Former University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway to Lecture on African-American Writer

— by on February 17th, 2010

Robert E. Hemenway, a distinguished scholar of African-American literature and the newly retired chancellor of the University of Kansas, will present a lecture, “Zora Neale Hurston: Jook Joints and Voodoo Tales,” on Monday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 214 of Washington and Lee University’s Science Center.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is being sponsored by W&L’s African-American Studies Committee. In addition to the public lecture, Hemenway will make a presentation to an Introduction to African-American Studies class and will lead a discussion on the topic of his current research, “Athletics and Values: The American Collegiate Model” during his visit to W&L.

Hemenway’s 1977 biography of African-American novelist Zora Neale Hurston, which was a “Best Books” pick by the New York Times in 1978, was named winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award in Biography and the Rembert W. Patrick Memorial Prize of the Florida Historical Society.

Poet and novelist Alice Walker, who wrote the forward to the paperback edition of Hemenway’s book, said that it “gives back to all of us something invaluable that was nearly lost: reliable information and knowledge of the life of a great writer and unique human being.”

A native of Nebraska, Hemenway received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and his Ph.D. from Kent State University. His 43-year career in academia included teaching positions in English at the University of Kentucky and the University of Wyoming before being named dean of arts and sciences at the University of Oklahoma. He returned to the University of Kentucky as chancellor in 1989 and served until 1995 when he was named chancellor of the University of Kansas, a position he held until stepping down in June 2009.

Hemenway is currently on sabbatical leave this academic year to work on a book about intercollegiate athletics and American values. He will return to teaching and scholarly research at Kansas in fall 2010.