Longtime leader of the Robert Penn Warren Center to retire in 2019

Mona Frederick, executive director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt)
Mona Frederick, executive director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities (Anne Rayner/Vanderbilt)

Mona Frederick, who has played a leading role at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities since its founding in 1988, has announced that she will retire in June 2019.

As the longtime executive director, Frederick has been responsible for creating, organizing and overseeing the center’s innovative scholarly programs.

“Since the early days of the Warren Center, Mona Frederick has been a strong advocate for interdisciplinary research and collaborative study on campus,” said John Geer, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science. “We are more than grateful for her many amazing contributions in building the center’s reputation as it advanced the humanities both within and beyond Vanderbilt.”

Among her accomplishments, Frederick spearheaded the university’s successful efforts to build a state-of-the art digital archive of Robert Penn Warren’s audio recordings featuring 1960s U.S. civil rights activists.

“I have been fortunate indeed to work with incredible colleagues who have been instrumental to the success of the Warren Center,” Frederick said. “I am proud of the strong foundation for the humanities at Vanderbilt that the Warren Center has contributed to over the years. As the center marks its 30th anniversary, it is an appropriate time to consider how the center can best continue to elevate humanistic scholarship at Vanderbilt and beyond.”

Geer and Bonnie Dow, dean of academic initiatives for Arts and Science, have appointed a faculty committee with a mix of disciplines and ranks to review the center’s operations. The committee will make recommendations in spring 2019 on how the center can capitalize on its strengths and bring additional visibility and prestige to Vanderbilt’s humanists and their scholarship.

The committee is chaired by Katherine Crawford, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and History; and Mark Jarman, Centennial Professor of English. Also serving on the committee are: Paul Taylor, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy; Ben Tran, associate professor of Asian studies and English; Lynn Ramey, professor of French; Leah Lowe, associate professor of theatre; Claire King, associate professor of communication studies; Daniel Sharfstein, Tarkington Chair in Teaching Excellence and professor of law and history; and Dow (ex officio).

“The Robert Penn Warren Center review committee has been charged with researching best practices at other humanities centers at peer institutions and gathering feedback from our humanities faculty as well as from the center’s current staff,” Crawford said. “We will consider the center’s role—not only in the College of Arts and Science—but in terms of its impact as a key player in Vanderbilt’s trans-institutional commitment to the humanities.”

A celebration to pay tribute to Frederick’s leadership of the Warren Center will be held in the spring.