Faculty Pursue Independent Projects With Kenan Grants

This summer, Elly Nyamwaya will return to his home country of Kenya to finish writing short stories, David Penner will publish a geometry book and William Scott will paint pictures of the Maine Coast. These three projects are a fraction of the 20 approved Kenan Grants, which are awarded yearly to faculty members pursuing independent projects. The Kenan Charitable Trust Fund, which finances the Kenan Grants, was able to award approximately $600,000 this year, according to Marcelle Doheny, Instructor in History and Kenan Trust Coordinator. Faculty members submitted at least 30 proposals this year for Kenan Grants, said Doheny. Nyamwaya, Instructor in English, has been working on his collection of short stories for seven years. He will use his grant money to travel back to Kenya, in order to “recreate the ambiance in which I created [the short stories], so I can make the final touches [on them].” He said that most of the stories center on social and political experiences in Kenya during the 1980s and 1990s. “The stories are quite varied in the thematic content. Some deal with love, others deal with unity among African countries,” said Nyamwaya. Nyamwaya said that despite his stories’ African setting, all of his short stories touch on ideas universal to all humans. “Human beings generally face the same challenges, they find themselves in the same dilemmas, and so many of the stories actually are a celebration of human triumph against adversity,” said Nyamwaya. Penner, Instructor in Math, will use his grant to rewrite and republish a geometry exercise book from 1937 that he hopes to use for the Math 210, 220 and 310 courses at Andover. Penner said that the book uses outdated notation, has no diagrams and is disorganized. “I wanted to make it more accessible. It’s a fabulous resource of problems, but nobody would use it anymore because it’s so hard to get at,” said Penner. “If this doesn’t get done, this book is going to disappear.” Penner estimated that this project will take about five weeks. He has already begun working on it, but the majority of the work will occur over the summer. Penner plans on spending the summer by adding diagrams, explanations, hints and additional proofs to the textbook. Penner continued, “I see this as providing a resource for geometry teachers here, and potentially for geometry teachers other places where they really want to do serious proofs.” Penner said that the printing costs for the textbook would be minimal because of his connections with publishers, so he will use the Kenan Grant as a stipend for his work. Scott, Instructor in Math, will use his grant to pursue his passion for painting the coast of Maine, where his family owns a summer house. “My undergraduate degree was in art, and so when I was in college I did a lot of painting. I’ve had very little time to do painting [since] because I became a math teacher,” said Scott. He said that the Kenan Grant “allows me to pick up something I was passionate about years ago, and gives me the motivation to want to do that.” Scott said he hopes to paint three canvases, which he estimated would take a month of dedicated painting for six hours every day. Scott was motivated to apply for a Kenan Grant after he began giving away his paintings and realized that his collection was gradually decreasing. “It’s been 30 years since I’ve painted, so I’m going into it with a little bit of trepidation,” said Scott. Stephen Wicks, Instructor in Art, also received a Kenan Grant for this summer. Wicks will use the grant to fund his road trip across America, during which he will take photographs juxtaposing nature and culture. Wicks plans to discuss his photography at a lecture and display it in a gallery exhibition. Kenan Grants have also enabled many Phillips Academy faculty members to travel across the globe this summer. Recipients will travel to locations such as France, Scotland, South Africa, Portugal and Lithuania. Kenan Grants can be awarded for a variety of pursuits from research projects to personal hobbies. Doheny said that Kenan Grants are not to be confused with curriculum grants, which help to develop new academic courses. Kenan Grants can award up to $5,000 for each project. The grants are funded by a million dollar donation to the Academy made by noted industrialist William R. Kenan in 1964. An outside committee of three professionals in education read the Kenan Grant proposals. The committee members rank the proposals and meet with John Rogers, Dean of Studies, Doheny and John Maier, Instructor in Spanish and Kenan Trust Coordinator, to discuss the proposals. The committee members make the final decision on which projects to fund. Maier was not present for this round of deliberations for recipients of Kenan Grants.