‘Expanding our horizons’: Inaugural Harward Fund program highlighted by renowned blues musician Corey Harris

Harris with Donald Harward and his family
Renowned blues musician Corey Harris performs in a free public concert at the Majestic Theater on March 28, 2024.

The vision for the Ann McIlhenny Harward Interdisciplinary Fund for Culture and Music at Gettysburg College is to leverage the powerful and synergistic interplay of music and culture for our students, our campus, and the public. Donald W. Harward P’86, P’92, conceived of the fund’s purpose to honor his late wife Ann, and this goal was brought to life for the first time through renowned blues musician Corey Harris during a three-day residency on campus and in town from March 26-28.

During his stay, Harris visited seven different College classes, conducted two guitar workshops, and performed at the SpiriTrust Lutheran nursing home and Vida Charter School, a local bilingual elementary public school. His stay culminated with a free public concert for more than 600 guests at the Majestic Theater on March 28.

“Corey Harris set the bar high during his three-day residency as the inaugural artist for this program,” said Africana Studies Chair Scott Hancock, who serves as the program’s director. “One of the things I love about liberal arts education is how it prepares students to think creatively and critically, apply knowledge to a wide spectrum of real-world situations, and relate to people in and out of academia. Corey Harris exemplified that for the combined Gettysburg town and college community—he’s an artist, scholar, public intellectual, educator and activist.”

Harris talks about life and music to a class
Harris meets with Prof. Cesar Leal’s Musicology class to talk about his life and music.

In the classroom, Harris engaged with students and faculty from five different departments: History, Africana Studies, Music, Peace and Justice Studies, and Art History. Harris, who was honored with a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007 for his innovative and eclectic approach to music, illuminated the rich tradition of the blues and its cultural significance with stories of blues legends like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and many others as he strummed their iconic tunes on his guitar.

Harris explained to the students and faculty in attendance that his role as a musician and artist is to educate the next generation and use music as a way to provide context and connection. Through the class sessions, approximately 170 students met with Harris, learning about his path to be a conduit of change and live a life of consequence and meaning, a pursuit echoed in Gettysburg’s own promise to provide students with A Consequential Education.

"Corey Harris' presence on our campus was transformative for me,” said Michael Pires ’27. “His soulful music and thought-provoking lyrics really resonated with us all. His performances sparked conversations about culture, history, and social justice.”

“Through the Ann Harward McIlhenny Fund and donor support,” Pires continued, “Gettysburg College is able to continue enriching our campus by inviting artists like Corey, fostering love, understanding, and expanding our horizons.”

Harris leads a guitar workshop
Harris leads a guitar workshop with students and staff in the CUB Junction.

Two of the programs—a combined class of art history and Africana studies and the first guitar workshop—took place in the College Union Building (CUB) Junction. Nearly 100 people attended the two events in the Junction, creating scenes reminiscent of Harris’ first visit to campus as a performer 25 years ago. A second guitar workshop was held in the apse of Musselman Library, and included a lunch catered by Uncle Moe's Soul Food.

This inaugural series featuring Harris was made possible through the generous contributions of the Endeavor Foundation, where Donald Harward is a board member. Endeavor committed $1.5 million to establish the fund and its transformative programming dedicated to understanding music’s role in exploring and understanding culture.

“Through the Ann Harward McIlhenny Fund and donor support, Gettysburg College is able to continue enriching our campus by inviting artists like Corey, fostering love, understanding, and expanding our horizons.”
Michael Pires ’27

Harward, the former president of Bates College, envisioned the interdisciplinary focus of the program at the College as a tribute to his wife Ann. She grew up in the town of Gettysburg and watched her two children, Sharon Harward Dorr ’86 and Brian Harward ’92, graduate from Gettysburg College, where her father, Hugh McIlhenny ’32, had also graduated. Ann’s life was immersed in higher education and she appreciated the value of a liberal arts approach where learning happens across disciplines and through unique and transformative experiences.

Flanked by members of his family and not too far from the spot where he proposed to Ann many years ago, Donald Harward sat in the Majestic Theater enveloped by the impassioned lyrics and soulful artistry of Corey Harris, a Bates alumnus who has travelled the world studying and sharing history and culture through the strings of his guitar.  

Harris with Donald Harward and his family
Harris along with Donald Harward and his family following the concert at the Majestic Theater.

“What pleased me so much about this event is that it’s Ann,” said Harward. “It's showing her interests, her commitment to students, her love of culture and music, her vitality and excitement, and her support of the community. That's what it's about, and that's why I'm so proud of what we were able to do with Corey Harris and his presence in Gettysburg, where our family has great roots that go back generations.”

With Harris setting a high bar in this inaugural Harward Fund series, Hancock and his planning committee will discuss potential artists and performers to provide an equally impactful performance at next year’s program.

“We’re already thinking about how to build for next year, and get input from more community members and organizations, as well as College faculty, students and staff about what they may find interesting and useful,” Hancock stated. “The Culture and Music program has excellent potential to broaden and deepen our understanding of, as Don Harward said, ‘how wholeness is formed from complexities and differences’ by weaving together communities of people who have tremendously rich talents, stories, and perspectives.”

Learn more about Gettysburg’s promise to provide students with opportunities to enrich the mind, deepen the heart, and strengthen the capacity to act.

Corey Harris Visit to Campus

By Corey Jewart
Photos by Abbey Frisco, Sofia Gutierrez ’26
Posted: 04/12/24

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