- About the Center
The Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center fosters innovative humanistic inquiry and scholarship. The Center's public programs create opportunities for lively dialogue among scholars, students, and citizens on issues (from ancient to contemporary) pertaining to human condition.
Founded in 1988 in the College of Humanities as the University of Utah Humanities Center, the Center was endowed and renamed in 1995 through a generous gift from the family foundation of Obert C. Tanner, renowned entrepreneur, philanthropist, and late professor emeritus of philosophy.
"In his moving biography One Man's Journey, Obert C. Tanner discusses his love for the adventure of learning sustained by the values of freedom, beauty, and kindness. Proceeding with Obert's assumption that the Humanities constitute the foundational core of education, the Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center is the jewel in the University of Utah's crown. The Center facilitates innovative scholarly, pedagogical, and community initiatives. It is the heart of a bold effort to advance the influence of the Humanities in contemporary education and culture." - Robert Newman, Dean, College of Humanities
- Our Mission
The Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Humanities Center seeks to promote humanistic inquiry and exchange by supporting innovative scholarly projects and by creating opportunities for interaction among scholars, students and lifelong learners. The Center works to build a humanities community in three ways:
Fellowships and other kinds of support to scholars facilitate new research in the humanities, particularly projects that transcend traditional disciplinary and departmental boundaries. The Center provides a variety of settings for introduction and discussion of this work.
Through colloquia and workshops, the Center encourages new thinking in humanities education for University and secondary school faculty and students.
Finally, the Center creates and supports conferences, lectures, panel discussions, screenings, and other programs that enhance understanding of the humanities for groups beyond the University.
The Center is located in the College of Humanities at the University of Utah, and is home of the Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Visiting Fellowships, the Lowell M. Durham Jr. and Virgil C. Aldrich Fellowships for University of Utah faculty, and Tanner Humanities Center Graduate Fellowships and Dissertation Support Awards.
- About the Tanners
Obert Clark Tanner was born September 20, 1904, to Annie Clark and Joseph Marion Tanner. Obert's father, exiled to Canada because of his practice of polygamy, was a fading presence in the life of his son. From an early age, Obert assumed responsibility for contributing to the support of his mother. She, in turn, instilled in him a profound respect for intellectual pursuits and the value of human freedom.
As a boy, Tanner learned habits of hard work on his uncle's farm, on railroad and construction crews, and in a lonely season herding sheep for his father in the Canadian Rockies. Despite reservations about his ancestral faith, he served a mission for the LDS church in a Germany recently devastated by the First World War. His soul-searching attempts to balance faith and reason and to reconcile human potential with human suffering led him to lifelong interest in the example of Jesus Christ.
In debt after his mission and European tour, Tanner came home to a job teaching seminary for his church. An urgent desire to pay off his obligation so that he could return to school inspired his entrepreneurial spirit. He begun selling seminary graduation pins and class rings from the back of his car - and so founded the O. C. Tanner Company. Balancing his teaching and writing assignments with his studies at the University of Utah, Tanner continued to develop his business, becoming increasingly convinced that he could reach true intellectual freedom only through financial security.
For the rest of his life he juggled twin passions: education and business. In the early years of his marriage to Grace Adams, Obert studied and taught at Stanford and Harvard universities, commuting back to Salt Lake City to supervise the growing Tanner Company, on its way to becoming one of the largest manufactures and retailers of corporate recognition awards in the country. In 1945 he assumed a faculty position at the University of Utah where he taught each morning for twenty-nine years, spending afternoons and weekends in his business pursuits.
His remarkable partnership with Grace and his intense personal friendships with a diverse circle of business, academic, church, and civic leaders helped him transcend business reversals and family tragedies. He received numerous honorary degrees, was a Fellow of Cambridge and Oxford universities, and a member of the British Academy. In 1978 he permanently endowed the distinguished Tanner Lectures on Human Values, which are presented annually at several universities in England and the United States. Among his many national and international awards are the United Nations Peace Medal (1978) and the National Medal of Arts conferred in Washington, D. C. (1988). Obert Tanner died October 14, 1993, in Palm Springs, California.
In the end he was able to enjoy and share the fruits of his labors. His generous gifts to universities and charitable organizations, his endowed lectures, the public fountains he has built all over the country, and his contributions to community, national, and international life form the lasting legacy of this unorthodox, interesting, and complex man.
- One Man's Journey: In Search of Freedom - Author: Obert C. Tanner; ?Publisher: University of Utah Press? (ISBN 0-87480-445-0); ?Foreword by M. Lynn Bennion, retired superintendent for Salt Lake City Schools.