Program History

In 2013, the Humanities department marked its 50th year at UNC Asheville. Read below to see how this flagship program has evolved during those five decades, and beyond. 

UNC Asheville Magazine Article

Humanities Program Timeline 1963- 2013



Grant Hardy, Director (14th)


Sophie Mills, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (6th)


50th Anniversary Celebration!!

2013 - Now : Beyond the First 50 Years


Brian Hook, Director (15th)


Dan Pierce, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (7th)




Alive at the Core: Exemplary Approaches to General Education in the Humanities by Michael Nelson and Associates (ISBN 0-7879-4760-1) was published. It includes a history of the UNC Asheville Humanities Program written by former Humanities Director, Margaret Downes.

Seamus McNerney joins Humanities Program faculty.


Bill Spellman, Director (10th)


Bill Spellman, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (2nd)


Cynthia Ho, Director (11th)


“The Asheville Reader: The Individual in the Contemporary World” was published. Editors included: Grace Campbell, Michael Gillum, Dorothy Sulock and Mark West.


Jeanne McGlinn, Director (12th)

Cynthia Ho, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (3rd)


A new edition of “The Asheville Reader: The Medieval & Renaissance World” was published. Editors included: Cynthia Ho, John McClain, Sheryl Sawin and Bill Spellman. “

The Asheville Reader: The Modern World” was published. Editors included: Ed Katz and Tracey Rizzo.

Humanities Student Association wins Outstanding Organization of the Year at the Annual Academic and Leadership Awards.


“The Asheville Reader: The Ancient World” was published by Copley publishing. Editors included: Brian Hook, Merritt Moseley and Kathleen Peters.


Ann Dunn joins Humanities Program faculty


New Hall opens January 2006. The 31,855 square-foot building is located in the academic core of campus. New Hall is home to the History, Foreign Languages, Classics, Women's Studies and Philosophy departments, along with the Arts & Ideas and Humanities Programs and the Office of Academic Conferences and Institutes.


Gordon Wilson, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (4th) 2006-2010: Cynthia Ho, Director (13th)


A new edition of “The Asheville Reader: The Individual in the Contemporary World” was published. Editors included: Grace Campbell and Reid Chapman.


Merritt Moseley, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor (5th)


“The University also has been named a “best buy” among American colleges in the 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999 Fiske Guide to College, and was included in the Fiske Guide’s 1993 special, one-time listing of the nation’s ten best public liberal arts institutions. The Humanities Program frequently has been mentioned in these publications as exemplary.” (Nelson, 2000, pp.221)


Association of American Colleges & the National Endowment for the Humanities selects UNC Asheville to be one of 9 ‘mentor colleges’ to help other colleges strengthen their core curricula.


The University of North Carolina at Asheville: The First Sixty Years by William Edward Highsmith was published. Includes description of Humanities Program by former director Sandra Malicote (pp. 253-5)

The Asheville Reader, Volume II: Humanities 214 was published. Edited by Margaret Downes.


Anthony Coyne, Director (8th)


The Asheville Reader, Volume III: Humanities 224 was published. Edited by Merritt Moseley.


The Future and the Individual, 4th Edition was published. Edited by Mark West.


Margaret J. Downes, Director (9th)


1st Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professorship was granted to Margaret Downes.

“The holder of this new fellowship, a two-year appointment, learns much about life at an undergraduate institution that emphasizes teaching and, in turn, teaches his UNCA colleagues new things about his academic specialty. [They] also will be responsible for visiting [their] graduate campus to share [their] experiences with doctoral students planning careers in college teaching. The Humanities director serves as main mentor to the NEH postdoctoral fellow.” (Nelson, 2000, pp.217)


The Asheville Reader: The Medieval and Renaissance World was published by Pegasus Press. Editors included: Cynthia Ho, Sheryl Sawin, and Bill Spellman. 


Grace Campbell and John McClain become first full-time Humanities Program faculty.




John Michael Gillum, Director (4th)


Margaret J. Downes, Director (5th)


Chancellor Brown awards extra funding to the Humanities Program. “Brown’s “thrust funding” allowed Humanities to conduct seminars directed by on-and -off campus scholars, as well as other faculty development activities. (Nelson, 2000, pp. 210)


“Until 1985, the director was given one course of reassigned time per semester; he or she had no budget and no secretary. In 1985, in response to demands created by growing enrollment, the reassigned time was increased to two courses per semester; the director was given control of a modest budget; and the program was given a three-quarter-time secretary (full time as of 1997-98)” (Nelson, 2000, pp. 209)



Sandra Malicote, Director (6th)


Service Learning (5-15 hours) was incorporated into the Humanities Program. 1st Humanities Retreat


Merritt Moseley, Director (7th)

1989 - 25th Anniversary

Reading for the Humanities 224 was published. Edited by Merritt Moseley.


Faculty widens reach of program, by including material from natural and social sciences. (Nelson, pp. 206) Humanities Program changes to 4 course, 16 semester hour requirement. (Nelson, pp. 205)


Philip Alfred Walker, 1st Director


John Michael Gillum, Director (2nd)


Robert S. Trullinger, Jr., Director (3rd)




Faculty-elected committee decided on a new general education program.
(Nelson, 2000, pp.204)

“The key decision they made was in reference to the humanities. The committee members wanted to make a genuine break with some of the traditional methods that had divided the humanities into more specific academic disciplines, such as history , literature, philosophy, religion, art, music, history of architecture, and so on. They wanted the institution to have a strong, humanistically oriented base that would tie together many of the ideas within the broad area of humanities and show how they were fundamentally related. The result was that the largest block of work in the general education curriculum required of all students would be six four-hour courses called the humanities. ” (Highsmith, pp.61-62)


Humanities Program began at Asheville- Biltmore College. The original six courses were:

  1. “The Ancient World (Beginnings to 180 A.D.)”
  2. “The Medieval World (180 to 1350)”
  3. “An Age of Transition (1350 to 1700)”
  4. “The West and the World (1700 to 1850)”
  5. “The West and the World (1850 to 1920”
  6. “The World in Our Time (1920 to Present)”


Lipinsky Hall was formally dedicated on February 17, 1964. Named after a local businessman, Lipinsky Hall served as the campus's first student union building. It is situated on the north corner of the Quad, next to Ramsey Library. The building houses Lipinsky Auditorium, a 650-seat venue for lectures, music and live performances. Lipinsky Hall houses the Music Department as well as other non-academic campus organizations.


On February 22, 1966 the Oliver C. Carmichael Humanities Building was formally opened. Carmichael Hall, which includes the Humanities Lecture Hall, was the first building on campus that gave the Humanities a home. Together the buildings are 32,000 square feet. Carmichael Hall is named after Dr. Oliver Cromwell Carmichael, a former chairman of the North Carolina board of higher education. Carmichael was a leading educator in America, a Rhodes Scholar, and British Army volunteer. New Hall became the new Humanities building when it opened in early 2006 and all the departments that resided in Carmichael were moved to New Hall including history, foreign language, and philosophy. (Special Collections: UA84.C37.2)


Asheville-Biltmore College becomes UNC Asheville. (Nelson, pp.203)

Highsmith, William Edward.  The University of North Carolina at Asheville : The First Sixty Years . Asheville: University of North Carolina at Asheville, 1991.

Nelson, Michael.  Alive at the Core: Exemplary Approaches to General Education in the Humanities . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000.