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A “Life-Changing” Gift to the Humanities

Charlotte Gordon
The Tadler Center for the Humanities recently received an anonymous $250,000 gift, which is helping Charlotte Gordon, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities and Tadler Center Director, to bring luminaries like Stephanie Land to campus while fortifying a place for the arts at Endicott.
3/28/2024
By: Danna Lorch

Charlotte Gordon, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, has developed a reputation around campus for keeping her finger on the pulse of the literary world.

In her role as Director of the Tadler Center for the Humanities, Gordon, a bestselling author in her own right, has honed an uncanny knack for bringing speakers to campus right before or as they enter the national spotlight.

How exactly does she do it?

“I spend a lot of time reading, writing, and gossiping with other writers, so I often know what’s going to become popular next,” she explained.

Recently, Gordon and the Tadler Center were surprised with an anonymous donor’s generous $250,000 gift, which was inspired by the center’s vision of enriching the intellectual lives of students, faculty, staff, and the broader North Shore community.

“This gift is life-changing for the center,” Gordon said.

The funds provide Gordon a license to tap further into her network, expand programming, and bring even more high-profile literary luminaries and provocative thinkers to campus.

First up is Stephanie Land, a hardworking housecleaner turned best-selling author, coming to campus on April 11. Maid, Land’s raw memoir, illustrates her determined struggle as a single mom on welfare and eventual rise out from American poverty. Barack Obama chose the memoir as one of the best books of 2019 and it later became a popular limited series drama on Netflix.

To prepare for the talk, Gordon’s students have been reading Land’s more recent book, Class, which describes the author’s battle to pay for and complete her higher education while strapped for resources.

Events like this one are staged at  Endicott's Klebanoff Auditorium, where after speakers present they respond to audience questions and then interact one-on-one with students at a book signing that follows.

Every Tadler Center event is free, and Gordon is determined to keep it that way while broadening the audience. With this gift, she can now advertise programming more widely so that the College’s neighbors along the North Shore hear about events and join in the dialogue along with Endicott students.

“We need more direct conversations about belonging on campus and along the North Shore,” she said. “I am struck by the impact that bringing in famous thinkers, performers, and authors has on our community—and how it can change our culture.”

She glimpsed this potential in a powerful April 2023 Tadler Center event with author Kiese Laymon. Many of the students who attended had read Heavy, Laymon’s memoir of growing up Black in Jackson, Miss.

“He became part of the College’s public conversation for an entire semester,” Gordon said. “He talks frankly about how hard it is to be Black in America.” Laymon took time to interact with students following his event—not shying away from debating tough questions about race, education, and America.

When a group of Asian-American students told Gordon they sometimes feel invisible, Gordon partnered with the School of Visual & Performing Arts and the Center for Belonging to organize a film screening of Finding Her Beat in March. The documentary follows an all-female and non-binary troupe performing Taiko, an ancient Japanese drumming medium that was historically only permitted for male artists.

Strengthening student scholarships and faculty fellowships

In addition to the speaker series, the Tadler Center offers scholarships to students with financial needs who express a passion for studying the humanities. These opportunities continue through admissions.

The new funding will also give Gordon leverage to scale up the Center’s Faculty Fellowship, which supports remarkable full-time faculty with funding, allowing them to teach lighter course loads as they work towards completing significant bodies of creative work.

“Books sometimes take years to craft in the humanities, not just a semester’s sabbatical. At the Tadler Center, we are happy to fund long and ambitious projects,” she explained.

This year’s fellowship winners are Sara Johnson Allen, Professor of Communication, and Elizabeth Winthrop, Associate Professor of English.

Allen’s prize-winning first novel, Down Here We Come Up, was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2023. It took her 15 years and more than 100 drafts to complete. Funding from the Tadler Center will give Allen the space and support to complete her next book project involving the history of her own 17th-century home in Ipswich, Mass.

An internationally renowned novelist, Winthrop is the author of The Mercy Seat, The Why of Things, Fireworks, and December, published by Simon & Schuster. She is using the fellowship to continue writing a novel about a woman who joins ISIS in Syria, where she becomes a mother who is caught up in the defeat of the terrorist group in 2019.

Ultimately, Gordon imagines establishing a physical home for the Tadler Center—a space with a big wooden seminar table where speakers, students, fellows, and neighbors alike can gather for discussions and creative writing workshops.

This remarkable new gift has given Gordon the chance to dream bigger and out loud.

“Through these speakers and their books,” she said, “I want us to be a community where students are encouraged to learn about worlds they didn’t know before and increase their empathy as a result.”

The Tadler Center Presents: An Evening with Stephanie Land will take place on April 11 at the Klebanoff Auditorium. Admission is free but registration is required.