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Western Civ at KU: Gone but not forgotten

Bailey Hall plaque honors legendary program.

by Chris Lazzarino
Begum Colpan, who teaches Turkish courses as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, strolls past the new Bailey Hall plaque commemorating KU’s Western Civ program.

A touchstone of intellectual growth for many, culturally skewed to others, and assuredly challenging for generations of students, KU’s once-vaunted Western Civ program this fall was memorialized with a plaque on the third floor of Bailey Hall.

Described by Professor Emeritus Jim Woelfel, assoc., as “a widely known and distinctive KU tradition,” Western Civilization was launched in 1945, followed two years later by the rigorous, and relatively small, Humanities interdisciplinary degree program. Western Civ and Humanities merged in the late 1980s, then dissolved in 2022 during cutbacks driven by enrollment trends. Two Western Civ courses and an Introduction to Humanities course survive, now housed in the classics department.

Woelfel, program director for 25 years, created and funded the reflective memorial “so that the existence of these programs will not be simply erased from KU’s institutional memory.”

Chris Lazzarino, j’86, is associate editor of Kansas Alumni magazine.

Photo by Steve Puppe

Issue 4, 2023


KU history
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