Introduction


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Samual Johnson described poetry as "… the art of uniting pleasure with truth by calling imagination to the help of reason." This description could serve equally well as a summary of the activities that are described in this volume.

This is the second volume in our Century of Excellence series. The emphasis in Showcase is on the arts, humanities and selected professional areas of endeavor. The work of scholarship in these fields is to explore the many dimensions of the human experience. This process is autocatalytic inasmuch as the very act of exploring and articulating our experiences creates an ever expanding sphere of understanding and growth; we are the creators of the intellectual universe in which we move.

The publication of Pathbreakers last year provided an overview of the many ways in which the faculty, students and staff have contributed to the advances in science and technology during the past century. In this volume, Showcase, we try to provide a glimpse into the many achievements that have contributed so richly to the cultural, aesthetic, social and intellectual dimensions of this state, the region, and this nation.

We recognized at the outset that selecting examples for Showcase would differ from the process used in the first volume. In the sciences there is often a broad consensus about the importance and permanence of individual discoveries. In non-scientific fields, there is often a wider range of opinions about what constitutes genuine and lasting contributions. Some choices for inclusion are obvious, such as the writings of Vernon Parrington, which influenced American scholarship for decades. In many cases the choices were more difficult. In general, we have attempted to include those contributions of the faculty that are widely regarded as having made a major impact within their respective disciplines.

We trust that our audience within and beyond the university will understand that this volume could have been expanded considerably with many additional examples of quality scholarship. However, space is limited, even more so because we decided to include certain special facilities of the institution that have come about as a result of the efforts of many faculty over the years - facilities that stand out as precious resources for the campus and for the region. These include the library and its special collections, the Henry Art Gallery, the Arboretum, Poetry Northwest, the founding of the KCTS television station, and the Ethnomusicology Archives. Overall, the picture that emerges is one of vigorous intellectual ferment, pioneering efforts, and creative innovation.

This is all the more remarkable given that budgetary conditions have been less than favorable for these fields. The explosive growth in scientific research in the latter half of the twentieth century was fueled by massive investments by the federal government. At the UW alone, nearly $5B have been expended in pursuing new discoveries across many fields of science and engineering. Unfortunately, resources at that level have been largely absent for our colleagues in the humanities, the arts, and many of the professional fields of inquiry such as law and business. The university has had to allocate its resources very judiciously just to sustain the most fundamental resource for these fields, the library system. But the other less visible elements necessary to a vibrant scholarly enterprise such as travel funds, or staff support for instructional work, manuscript preparation, and routine correspondence, have been available at levels below the poverty line.

In other words, state general funds provide the salary support for the faculty to teach undergraduate and graduate students, but little in the way of flexible resources to provide the ancillary support needed to sustain an optimum program of scholarship. The sciences have compensated in part because they have access to substantial funding from federal sources; the arts and humanities do not.

This state of affairs is almost as frustrating to those in the sciences as it is to their colleagues in the non-science fields. The reason is rooted in the very notion of the university. All faculty recognize that it is a severe challenge to remain a great university if a major segment of the intellectual domain is not supported at a level commensurate with the rest of the institution or its peer groups at other institutions. Likewise, we all recognize that much of the human experience is as profoundly affected by our cultural and artistic understanding as by our technological developments.

Indeed, it is imperative that we make more dramatic advances in our understanding of cultural, philosophical, social and ethical/spiritual dimensions of our existence if we are to maintain any control over the technological developments that expand apace. How we cope as individuals, as societies, and as communities to achieve more harmonious, tolerant, mutually supportive and equitable interactions remains among the most compelling challenges of contemporary society. To address these issues more aggressively, we will need to identify additional financial resources and apply an even greater level of creativity and innovation to these questions than we have in the past.

While this second volume is devoted largely to fields in the arts and humanities, we freely admit that the dividing line between topics covered in Showcase versus Pathbreakers is rather arbitrary. By separating the arts from the sciences, it is not our intention to widen the gap between the "two cultures." This would, in fact, run counter to a persistently evolving emphasis on interdisciplinary research and scholarship at this and other major universities in the country.

Our Century of Excellence series was undertaken in these two parts for practical reasons only. We invite readers to consider Pathbreakers and Showcase together as a two-volume set, and trust that they will sometimes recognize fundamental similarities in the concerns, methods and discoveries described in these volumes.

We hope the few vignettes that have been selected as exemplars of a rich array of intellectual, artistic and cultural achievements at the UW will not only provide the complementary balance to the scientific accomplishments but also demonstrate the intimate connection between the UW and the life of our region. We trust that this review of the past will serve as a beacon that can help illuminate the prospects for the future.

Alvin L. Kwiram
Vice Provost for Research

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