Tocqueville program receives major gift

GREENVILLE, S.C.—The Tocqueville Program at Furman University received a major boost this week when an alumnus made a $500,000 gift to underwrite the efforts of the highly respected academic program that promotes the continuing relevance of Western and American political thought.

Ravenel Curry, a 1963 Furman graduate, and his wife, Beth, provided the gift for the Tocqueville Program, which brings some of the nation’s most respected thinkers to campus each year and sponsors a popular student seminar in political thought.

According to political science professor Ty Tessitore, who serves as co-director of the Tocqueville Program, the Currys’ gift creates a strong financial base that will allow Furman to offer the program for the next 10 years and likely for the indefinite future.

“Now that the course and accompanying lecture series is on a firm economic foundation, the Curry pledge allows us to turn our efforts to an ambitious project of expanding the number of courses offered by the program,” he said.

The Tocqueville Program was created in 2008 and takes its name from Alexis de Tocqueville, the French writer and statesman who traveled widely in America in the 1830s to study and write about the young nation’s experiment with democracy.  Each year, it sponsors a course and brings prominent scholars and public intellectuals to Furman’s campus to discuss the moral questions at the heart of political life.

Since the program was created in 2008, it has been enormously successful.  In 2010, student demand was such that it was necessary to double the space available in the course.  Speakers for the program have included such prominent scholars as Francis Fukuyama (Johns Hopkins), Lee M. Silver (Princeton University) and Martha C. Nussbaum (University of Chicago).

In a recent article for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the program was lauded as a “model” of intellectual rigor and was compared favorably to similar programs at Duke and Princeton.

“We consider the Tocqueville Program as an effort to offer a dynamic model of liberal education at Furman, a model that is at once more traditional and more genuinely liberating than the model that dominates much of higher education today” said political science professor and program co-director Ben Storey.

Storey and Tessitore said the program was developed “in response to the growing civic and cultural illiteracy of students enrolled in American institutions of higher education, and the creeping ideological conformity that pervades faculty and students alike.” In addition to teaching the texts that largely shaped Western civilization, Storey said the “program seeks to prepare students to be responsible citizens of both their own country and the world.”

For more information, contact Ty Tessitore (864-294-3331; ty.tessitore@furman.edu) or Benjamin Storey (864-294-3574; benjamin.storey@furman.edu).