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Howard Sacks

Ph.D. 1976

As I enter my fortieth and final year of teaching at Kenyon, this is a good time to take a moment and look back to my professional origins.

In general, my career has been that of a public intellectual. I’ve never been satisfied with the traditional role of the research scholar, which always struck me as too confining. Although I’ve made my share of scholarly contributions, I’ve always tried to speak in a manner that informed a broader public; those two goals have never seemed contradictory to me.

My strongest memories of graduate school are of the camaraderie I experienced with several fellow graduate students, with whom I remain in contact. Our many discussions enriched my critical understanding of sociology and provided the support we all needed to make it through those challenging years. My fondest faculty memory is of Slats Cottrell, who served as my intellectual mentor and provided an outstanding model of how to live a good and humane life. The lessons I learned from E.K. Wilson about the value of good teaching have been essential to my Kenyon career.

At Kenyon College, besides teaching, I have served as Senior Advisor to the President and Provost. As Director of the Rural Life Center, I have coordinated educational, scholarly, and public projects to ensure the vitality of local rural life. In addition to two books, my publications have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals, as well as numerous magazines and newspapers.

I’ve also served on panels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Governor’s Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council, and I have regularly consulted with organizations and communities nationwide on rural development and culture. Since 2012, I have participated in an international collaboration with Chinese folklorists to protect indigenous cultural heritage. I have received over forty grants and fellowships for scholarly research and public programs, for which I have received state and national awards.

Life here is good. Judy and I are healthy and happy on our sheep farm in Gambier. Judy continues to work as a freelance editor, specializing in major catalogs for art museums; in the past decade, her primary client has been the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. We continue to play music together, as we did in our Carolina days; and we have been deeply involved in the world of traditional arts nationwide. Last fall, we were part of a two-week tour across China presenting American musical traditions. Our daughter, Hannah, is grown and married. She and her husband live and work in Washington, DC., and we see them often.

My emailaddress is

For more information on the Rural Life Center, visit

Submitted June 2015