June Henton Reflects on the History of the Humanities in IQLA’s Distinguished Lecture Series

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Dean Emeritus of the College of Humanities, June Henton, spoke about the history of the humanities during the 2022 International Quality of Life Awards, or IQLA, Distinguished Lecture Series.

Henton, who served as dean for more than 30 years, detailed the rich history and evolution of the humanities as an academic field as well as its growth at Auburn University. She noted how the growth of the humanities as a field can be tracked alongside the evolution of the women’s movement.

“As human scientists, we’re proud of our heritage, but we also know there’s still a lot of work to do,” Henton said. “Let us remember that the women who came before us did the work of a yeoman, paving the way for our success…So we are passing the torch to the next generation.”

She told the story of chemist Ellen Richards, the first woman to be admitted to and later become a teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, and is also considered the founder of home economics. Richards had a desire to help women at home who were struggling with issues such as food security, household sanitation, and energy conservation.

“Our field was like engineering, agricultural architecture, and all of the applied arts and sciences,” Henton said. “We had our unit of study as a family, and in that environment that we translate into food, clothing and housing, and their relationship to the world.

“How simple it seems at first glance, but the complexities that come with our many family structures and their relationships with their communities are truly mind-boggling.”

Henton also spoke of the vital role that land-grant universities, such as Auburn University, have played in the growth of the home economy. One of the functions of land-grant universities was to provide knowledge and practical information to farmers and consumers, paving the way for programs devoted to the study and teaching of home economics.

While at Auburn, Henton provided visionary leadership for teaching, research, and outreach in the academic departments of the College of Humanities, and helped lead several groundbreaking initiatives. She has helped launch initiatives and programs such as the National Textile Center University Research Consortium, the Elmer and Glenda Harris Center for Early Learning, the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Program Abroad in Italy and many others. ‘others.

With home economics programs across the country in danger of being disbanded to cut costs, Henton guided the college, then called the School of Home Economics, through the possibility of being moved and disbanded. Henton, along with students, faculty, and alumni, rallied together to keep the college alive.

“I knew that when programs were moved, they often fell to the bottom of the barrel for the new dean, they weren’t prioritized, and vacancies were often not filled,” Henton said. “We developed a strategy to stay intact, and you wouldn’t believe the flurry of activity. We rallied the troops, secured the support of our strongest allies and weathered the storm.

One of the school’s students designed a shirt with the letters SOS on it, for “Save our School”, which Henton and others adopted to raise awareness for their cause.

Henton led the push for a name change from the School of Home Economics to the College of Humanities, making Auburn University the first in the nation to adopt such a title. Many universities have since followed.

Henton also established the Women’s Philanthropy Board, as well as forming the Hunger Solutions Institute with the goal of ending world hunger. For his significant contributions to individual, family and community well-being locally and globally, Henton was the recipient of the IQLA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

“June Henton’s desire to improve quality of life is a shared passion at the College of Humanities, shared by our faculty, staff and students,” said Susan Hubbard, Dean of the College of Humanities.

The lecture series concluded with the presentation of the first-ever Spirit of IQLA Scholarships. Established in 2020, the scholarship is awarded to a student or students who demonstrate a passion for improving the quality of life and well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Elena Gagliano and Lani Hammond were the first recipients.

Gagliano is a sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, pursuing degrees in human development and family sciences and psychology with minors in statistics, counseling, and women’s and gender studies.

Hammond is an interior design junior from Huntsville, Alabama. She is interested in sustainability, particularly in helping to alleviate the housing crisis. Hammond works to find lasting solutions to the lack of affordable housing and the impact this has on communities and individuals.

To see Henton’s entire IQLA conference, go here. To learn more about the College of Humanities, click here.

Angela C. Hale