Colleagues near and far joined the Wolf Humanities Center earlier this month in toasting Jim English for his eight years as Director of the Penn Humanities Forum and the Wolf Humanities Center. Under his leadership, Penn received major gifts to endow and make permanent the programs of the Penn Humanities Forum as the Wolf Humanities Center, and to endow a new digital humanities lab, the Price Lab for Digital Humanities.
Since becoming Director in 2010, Jim has hosted and helped to support over 250 public events which have helped to place the center and its scholars at the forefront of many fields of emerging humanistic research, including environmentalism, disability studies, transgender medical ethics, and cultural network mapping.
He has also led over 175 research seminars whose 180 faculty have received fellowships from the Forum/Center. "One of the great things about the Wolf Humanities Center,” says Karen Redrobe, Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media and incoming director of the Wolf Humanities Center, “is the opportunity it makes for faculty to learn from each other” in a seminar setting. Jim consistently has drawn wide admiration from colleagues in those seminars for his inclusive approach to scholarship.
From everyone he has worked with while director—students, staff, and scholars—Jim is best celebrated for being modest, thoughtful, generous, deliberative, and a welcoming friend. Timothy Rommen, Davidson Kennedy Professor in the College and three-time faculty advisor of the Undergraduate Humaniites Forum, speaks for all of us in saying, "Thanks, Jim, for being a model of how to be a colleague, and for empowering the people around you to be their best selves.”
Following a sabbatical in 2019, Jim will continue at Penn as the John Welch Centennial Professor of English and Faculty Director of the Price Lab for Digital Humanities.