Currys’ gift bolsters Tocqueville program

June 03, 2013 | Kate Dabbs '09, Contributing Writer

shutterstock_74824141
shutterstock_74824141
shutterstock_74824141

The Tocqueville Program at Furman promotes the continuing relevance of Western and American political thought, attracts some of the nation’s most prominent scholars to campus, and sponsors a popular student seminar in political thought.

Now, thanks to a $500,000 gift from former Furman trustee Ravenel Curry ’63 and his wife, Beth, the program has a firm economic foundation on which to build and grow. “This pledge allows us to turn our efforts to an ambitious project of expanding the number of courses offered by the program,” says Ty Tessitore, professor of political science who, with departmental colleague Ben Storey, is the program’s co-director.

The program, which began in 2008, takes its name from Alexis de Tocqueville, the French writer and statesman who visited America in the 1830s to study and write about the young nation’s experiment with democracy. It was developed, according to the directors, “in response to the growing civic and cultural illiteracy of students and the creeping ideological conformity that pervades faculty and students alike.”

In a recent article for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the program was lauded as a “model” of intellectual rigor and was compared favorably to similar programs at Duke and Princeton. In 2010, student demand was such that it was necessary to double the space available in the course. Tocqueville Lecture Series speakers have included such scholars as Francis Fukuyama (Johns Hopkins), Lee Silver (Princeton) and Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago).

“We consider the Tocqueville Program to be the beginnings of a much broader effort to invigorate the teaching of the liberal arts at Furman,” says Storey.