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4/23/2019 In Praise of a Liberal Arts Education | Tri States Public Radio


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In Praise of a Liberal Arts Education


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4/23/2019 In Praise of a Liberal Arts Education | Tri States Public Radio
Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University

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This is an open letter to State lawmakers Norine Hammond and John Sullivan:     

As an alumna and faculty member of Western Illinois University's College of Arts and Sciences, I ask you
to consider my testament to the value of Western's liberal arts-based education. 

Meaningful degrees rooted in the liberal arts are not cheap, but the returns are great:  citizens who
achieve high-quality careers and raise revenue for the public good-- citizens who care deeply about their
neighbors, the state of Illinois, our nation, and the world.


Holly Stovall's March 20 radio commentary

Western’s excellent liberal arts-based education has always been public, and we continue to merit
generous state funding.  However, Governor Rauner’s demand that Western slash jobs and programs is
unprecedented and fails to protect over a century of educational investment and love of learning.

In the summer of 1987, my family moved into the parsonage of Macomb’s First Christian Church.   As a
preacher’s kid, I had moved 5 times in 18 years, but here, I assimilated easily:  Macomb was small,
accepting, friendly, and slow-paced, but because of Western, offered the cultural events, intellectual
excitement, and hint of diversity of a big city.  

WIU supports a love or learning throughout Macomb.  More than in any other church my father had led,
the people of the Macomb First Christian loved stories and theological depth and wanted my dad to
preach, teach, and lead in a way that was consistent with his rigorous theological training. 2/6
4/23/2019 The
In Praise of a Liberal Arts summer
Education of 1987,
| Tri States having
abandoned plans to
Public Radio

attend college in Texas, I signed up for Dr. Karen

Mann’s General Honors seminar at Western.  Her
class was on par with any freshman seminar I could
have taken in Texas, New York, or California.  We
did not memorize facts, rules or procedures; rather,
we made meaning.  After 25 years, I quote her
verbatim to my students.

In the summer of 1987, I met Macomb High

graduate Tom Sadler, who was also enrolled as a
freshman at Western and after ten years of study
and travel, we would marry.  Tom’s father, Charles
Sadler, had been a History professor here and his
mother, Judy Sadler, was a principal in Macomb
Holly Stovall
schools.  Like many Macomb families today, Tom’s
parents were a literal marriage of town and gown. 

Tom and I often talk about how much we appreciated our liberal arts professors at Western.  They taught
us that we teach and learn through a relationship of trust and respect, through a willingness to engage and
challenge each other– to solve problems together.  We must continue this legacy.

We must teach all Western students to weigh their choices in the context of globalization, climate change,
and social inequalities.  Professors of the liberal arts teach students to seek meaning and to cultivate
friendships across boundaries of political ideology, race, class, sexuality and gender.  In a world growing
ever more complicated, these friendships are priceless.

Today, the humanities are more important than ever.  Literature professors teach future police officers,
business leaders, and nurses to think empathetically.  Professors of philosophy show teachers how to
question poor logic, and accountants learn to think more deeply about ethics.  Religion classes teach non-
judgmental acceptance. 

Western has cultivated stronger bonds between faculty and students than our counterparts have, and our
hallmark must be that we continue to care about students and share our love of learning with them.  We
have relied on the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty to inspire students to seek and discover meaning. 
Please guarantee funding so that the liberal arts-based education of Western Illinois University may
continue to prepare all our graduates to make a positive impact on the world.

Holly Stovall is an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at Western Illinois University.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or the university.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged. 3/6