W&J Alumnus Ed Simon speaks at a lectern with students and faculty looking on.

Maxwell Lecture hosts W&J alumnus, author

Created: February 15, 2024  |  Last Updated: February 15, 2024  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

WASHINGTON, PA (February 15, 2024) – Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) Department of English and Department of Religious Studies recently hosted Dr. Ed Simon ‘06 for the J. Robert Maxwell ‘43 Visiting Scholar Series.

During his talk, “The Humanities in an Inhumane Time,” Dr. Simon argued that the actual value of a liberal arts education is often misunderstood in today’s society.

“We were excited to welcome Dr. Simon back to W&J to discuss the importance of a liberal arts education to a thriving democracy,” shared Dr. Tara Fee, associate professor and chair of the English Department. “His books – on a range of subjects from angels to demons, Pittsburgh to Paradise Lost – demonstrate how a broad and deep education in the liberal arts can help citizens negotiate tough questions both civically and personally.”

Dr. Simon highlighted – and criticized – the notion that many have today that the humanities and an education rooted in a liberal arts environment are too focused on self-culture and political indoctrination.

Instead, he stressed that an education in liberal arts “should prepare students to respond to the urgent practical, social and ethical problems of our divided world with deliberation and depth of understanding.”

After Dr. Simon’s lecture, he engaged in a lively Q&A session with many students and faculty.

Dr. Simon is the executive director of Belt Media Collaborative, editor-in-chief for “Belt Magazine” and an emeritus staff writer at “The Millions,” in addition to being a monthly columnist for “3 Quarks Daily” and “LitHub.”

He is the author of over a dozen books. His essays have appeared in “The Atlantic,” “The Paris Review Daily,” “The Washington Post,” “Newsweek,” “Poetry,” “McSweeney’s,” “Aeon,” “Jacobin,” “Salon,” “The New Republic” and “The New York Times,” among others.

Dr. Simon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from W&J and a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University.

As with all of these lecture series, one of the most significant aspects is that W&J students have the unique opportunity to engage personally with speakers ranging from politicians, intellectuals and artists, not only through the lecture itself but also through extended conversations in classes and over meals.

“This endowment has been a tremendous gift to the College,” added Dr. Fee. “It has enabled us to bring prominent speakers to campus of the sort that typically would be out of range for a campus of our size – from former Secretary of State George Mitchell to Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof to peacemaker Mary Montague to bestselling memoirist Mary Karr.”

About the J. Robert Maxwell ’43 Visiting Scholar Series 

Endowed in 2010, the J. Robert Maxwell ’43 Visiting Scholar Series provides the Washington & Jefferson College community, including students, faculty, staff and interested citizens, access to a wider array of viewpoints, opinions and practices from distinguished and influential leaders.

Robert Maxwell ‘43 was a lawyer, community leader and trustee emeritus of W&J. He received a certificate in meteorology from the University of Chicago and served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy through the end of World War II. After the war, Maxwell entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1949.

Throughout Maxwell’s life, he was an ardent servant of W&J. He was president of the General Alumni Association and the Allegheny County Alumni Association, service for which he received the W&J Award of Merit in 1958. He was elected to the Board of Trustees in 1965 and served as an active member until he was appointed a Trustee Emeritus in 1985. 

Through his many years of service, Maxwell provided leadership and guidance with great wisdom and delightful good humor.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pennsylvania, is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu or call 888-W-AND-JAY.