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Western's Annual Liberal Arts Lecture Named to Honor John Hallwas

September 30, 2004

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MACOMB, IL - - John Hallwas, who has served Western Illinois University as an English professor and archivist, was recently honored for his work as a teacher, public scholar, regional historian, and community activist.

At a Sept. 23 retirement reception filled with praise and surprises for Hallwas, WesternÂ’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), in which Hallwas worked for 34 years, announced that its annual lecture in the liberal arts would be renamed the John Hallwas Liberal Arts Lecture.

“John Hallwas has been an important contributor to Western Illinois University’s liberal arts program as well as a great credit to the intellectual core of the University,” said CAS Dean Inessa Levi. “The College of Arts and Sciences is happy to preserve his remarkable legacy with the name of our annual lecture.”

Hallwas was chosen to present the inaugural Liberal Arts Lecture in 2003. His presentation, “The Liberal Arts, Civic Responsibility, and Western's Mission,” was, in his words, “An opportunity to comprehend more deeply what we do here, and to consider what we should be doing." It was, in his view, not just a lecture but the start of a community conversation - - a chance for faculty, students, and others to think about Western and the great tradition of liberal learning.

As he pointed out in his address, which was broadcast over WIUM a year ago, “Here at Western we must see ourselves as a proudly committed academic community in search of an always-improving, total educational experience that will enable our graduates to live responsibly and joyfully, fulfilling not just their promise as individuals but also their obligations as citizens. That's what the liberal arts have always been about - - and that's what Western should always be about too.”

According to Dean Levi, "An endowment fund has been established to help support the annual lecture, which will continue as a major intellectual event at the University, focused on broad educational and cultural issues and aimed at the interested regional public as well as the WIU community.

“Fortunately, John is planning on staying very active and assisting our college in planning and implementing more activities throughout the year to better serve and challenge our students and faculty,” Levi added. “I’m looking forward to working with him to promote and support liberal arts education in the college and the University.”

At the reception, President Al Goldfarb, on behalf of the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees, presented Hallwas the award of Distinguished Professor Emeritus, as a tribute to his "exemplary service as a scholar.”

Macomb Mayor Mick Wisslead proclaimed Sept. 23, 2004 “John E. Hallwas Day” in the City of Macomb and presented Hallwas with the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award, on behalf of the Illinois Humanities Council.

Hallwas came to Western in the early 1960s from the small Illinois town of Antioch, on the Wisconsin border, earning bachelorÂ’s (1967) and masterÂ’s (1968) degrees in English. He was a NDEA (National Defense Education Act) Fellow (1968-1970) in the English doctoral program at the University of Florida, where he earned his Ph.D. (1972) with a specialization in medieval literature. Two years before he completed his dissertation, Hallwas accepted a call from his alma mater to teach British literature.

In 1979 Hallwas assumed added responsibilities as director of regional collections at the Archives of the University Library, which complemented his emerging focus on American studies. Since the 1970s he has also lectured widely in Illinois and the Midwest.

Hallwas is the most widely published professor in WIU history. He has written and edited more than 20 books and monographs, most of them focused on Midwestern literature and history. In 1998 his book "The Bootlegger: A Story of Small-Town America" was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction. He has also won a variety of awards for his teaching and community service, including the WIU Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award and the Macomb Citizen of the Year Award.

The author of "Macomb: A Pictorial History," Hallwas was also commissioned to produce “First Century: A Pictorial History of Western Illinois University” for Western’s Centennial Celebration (1999-2000). Those and other books have made him a very well-known academic figure, who symbolizes the University's commitment to the people and values of the western Illinois region.

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