The University of Tennessee Humanities Center will celebrate its inauguration on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in McClung Museum.

Princeton philosophy professor Anthony Appiah will present "The Life of Honor" and a public reception will follow. Appiah is well known for his work in philosophy, working on political and moral theory, the philosophy of language and African intellectual history. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal in 2012 by President Obama and was named one of the top 100 global thinkers in 2010 by Foreign Policy magazine.

Tom Heffernan, the Kenneth Curry Professor in the Humanities and director of the Humanities Center, is excited to bring Appiah to campus. "One of the things we needed to inaugurate the humanities center was a very distinguished speaker," Heffernan said.

The Humanities Center represents five years of planning from department heads in the humanities. "The point of it was to show the university community the centrality of the humanities," Heffernan said. "The humanities in this institution teach most of the students in the university."

Every UT student has to take general education classes, many of which fall within the humanities departments. Tyrel Prentiss, undecided sophomore, hopes to major in a humanities field. "Studying the humanities is important because they reveal things that are essentially human and important in our daily lives," he said. "Through the humanities, one studies success, failure, creativity, culture, emotion and ideas."

Wade Scofield, junior in religious studies, sees humanities as being vital to society as a whole. "The continued study of these fields is important to the upkeep of our national and world history, literature, and dogma," Scofield said.

Students like Scofield and Prentiss will benefit from the Humanities Center as it grows and gains national prestige, raising the value of a humanities degree from UT and bringing UT up to par with Top 25 schools. "All of our peer groups that we're aspiring to have humanities centers," Heffernan said.

Four faculty members and four graduate students have been awarded year-long fellowships as part of the new Center. They will have offices in Melrose Hall, researching various pursuits.

"The importance of this for the grad students is amazing," Heffernan said. "Our grad students at the university teach a considerable amount, but they still have to take classes and write a dissertation. It usually delays their graduation considerably."

As fellows, the four grad students will be able to focus on their work. "One of the things the humanities center is going to help them do is finish their dissertation and get out in the job market in a timely fashion. And they'll be more competitive," Heffernan said.

The four graduate fellows are Katharine Burnet, Leah Giamalva, Anthony Minnema, and Kyle Stephens. They will be joined in their work by Professrs Flavia Brizio-Skov, Vegas Liulevicius, Mark Luprecht, and Rachelle Scot. Their fields range from history to English to religious studies and even modern foreign language.