May 22, 2018
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Senate confirms former Colby president as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities

William Adams


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dr. William “Bro” Adams, who served as president of Colby College from 2000 until he retired in June, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate Wednesday as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Adams, who now lives in Falmouth, is expected to begin his duties in the coming days, according to a press release from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency and grant-writing institution dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

President Obama announced in April that he was nominating Adams to become the 10th chairman of the organization.

A native of Birmingham, Michigan, and son of an auto industry executive, Adams earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a doctorate from the University of California at Santa Cruz History of Consciousness Program, according to the release. He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar before beginning his career in higher education with appointments to teach political philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to coordinate the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University and to serve as vice president and Secretary of Wesleyan University. He became president of Bucknell University in 1995 and president of Colby College in 2000.

Adams’ formal education was interrupted by three years of service in the Army, including one year in Vietnam. It was partly that experience, according to the press release, that motivated Adams to study and teach in the humanities.

“It made me serious in a certain way,” he said. “And as a 20-year-old combat infantry advisor, I came face to face, acutely, with questions that writers, artists, philosophers and musicians examine in their work — starting with, ‘What does it mean to be human?’”

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King praised the confirmation in a joint statement.

“Dr. Adams is a proven leader whose engagement and direction have enriched the state of Maine,” Collins said. “A Vietnam War veteran, Fulbright Scholar and board member for both the Maine Film Center and Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation, his diverse experiences have prepared him to lead the nation’s cultural agency.”

“Throughout his career, Dr. Adams has demonstrated strong leadership and an unwavering commitment to the humanities,” King said. “I am exceedingly confident that he will build on that legacy as chairman of the NEH and guide the agency with the same ability and character he has shown at Colby.”


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