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The Gaines Center

Season's Greetings from The Gaines Center

Dear friends of the Gaines Center,

It’s my honor and privilege to send you this note of season’s greetings as the Center’s fourth Director. In this new role, I know that I stand on the shoulders of giants. Ray Betts was among the first folks I met when I interviewed for a job in the History Department. I vividly recall how he peppered me with challenging questions – with a gleam ever in his eye. Dan Rowland has been my friend and colleague for over twenty years, and he still gives me a boost of positive energy every time he walks into the room. Bob Rabel is a scholar and teacher whom I’ve always deeply admired, and who, along with Dan, is a fount of wisdom and valuable advice. I continue to marvel at how lucky I am to find myself in such distinguished company as I share with them the rare honor of holding what must surely be the best job on the UK campus.

I should tell you a bit about myself. I’ve been a faculty member in the UK History Department for over twenty years. A native of Evanston, Illinois, I received my B.A. from Grinnell College in 1986 and my Ph.D. in History from Princeton in 1993. A specialist in the history of modern Britain and the British Empire, I’m a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. My focus is on the nineteenth century, and I’ve written on topics ranging from political reform to immigration, and from radical journalism to slave emancipation in the British West Indies. I teach modern European as well as British and British imperial history, and have been honored with several teaching awards at UK. For several years I served as Associate Dean of Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, and was interim Dean of the College for the 2008-9 academic year. My wife, Bettina Morrish, is a veteran History teacher and department chair at the Sayre Upper School. We live in the Bell Court neighborhood of downtown Lexington with our sons Nate (17) and Nick (13), and two large and perpetually spoiled dogs, Sally and Mason. 

I greatly look forward to getting to know many of you, and to consult with you as we advance the Gaines Center’s goals. The first goal should be to keep doing what the Gaines Center has done exceptionally well over a long span of years: to provide fellows with extraordinary learning experiences and to groom them for leadership; to foster the deep and broad discussion of ideas through the Bale Boone Symposium and the Lafayette Seminar; and to sustain the dialogues and build on the initiatives through which the Center has helped UK forge stronger civic ties with the Lexington community. The second goal, I believe, should be to partner even more effectively with the broader UK campus. A third goal should be to articulate and to champion the value of a humanistic education. It seems to me that this goal is best advanced in tandem with a fourth goal: to promote the Gaines program as an excellent opportunity for the very strongest students across all of UK’s colleges, and to try to recruit the strongest applicants whether they aspire to be humanities professors, physicians, engineers, or biotech researchers. I greatly look forward to our partnership in meeting these goals while we identify and tackle others, as well.

In closing, let me briefly share with you a couple of exciting new initiatives. Thanks to our new partnership with UK’s Confucius Institute, all twelve Junior Fellows will have the opportunity to take a two-week study tour to China in the second half of May, with airfare, travel in China, meals, and lodging expenses covered for them. We think that the Junior Gaines Fellows are an ideal group of undergraduate cultural ambassadors. This is why the Confucius Institute has created this amazing opportunity for us to travel in China. As the China tour illustrates, the Gaines Center will always remain focused first and foremost on optimizing the experience of our Fellows. But it’s also important that the Center be seen to inspire humanistic endeavors across the breadth of the UK campus. To that end, Dean Mark Kornbluh of the College of Arts & Sciences has very kindly budgeted considerable new funds for the Gaines Center to distribute over the next two fiscal years. That money will be dispersed to support lectures, workshops, performances, exhibits, and other public events around the deliberately broad and flexible theme of Violence and the Human Condition. We’re confident that some rich programming will grow from this seed money, and that additional funding might be available to undertake similar initiatives around other broad themes in the years ahead.

I pledge to keep you informed as the Gaines Center moves forward. Thank you so much for your abiding support of our endeavors. May the New Year bring all of us peace and much joy.

On behalf of all of us at the Gaines Center, I wish you all the best,




Philip R. Harling

Professor of History

Gaines Professor of Humanities &

Director of the Gaines Center



About the Gaines Center for the Humanities

Founded in 1984 by a generous gift from John and Joan Gaines, the Gaines Center for the Humanities functions as a laboratory for imaginative and innovative education on the University of Kentucky's campus. Devoted to cultivating an appreciation of the humanities in its students and faculty, the Center embraces varied paths of knowledge, and particularly strives to integrate creative work with traditional academic learning.

Located in three historic buildings between the University of Kentucky and downtown Lexington, the Center is also designed to provide a link, intellectual as well as geographic, between the campus and town communities. The Center sponsors an array of public events - seminars, workshops, and culinary events — that bring the rich and varied resources of the Lexington community and the University of Kentucky together.