A Family’s History Inspires Support for the Humanities
April 26, 2017, BY Christina Masciere Wallace
Bucknellians follow many different paths, but none can claim an experience quite like that of Josephine "Dodie" Detmer '52.
Being a daughter of Horace Hildreth, Bucknell's ninth president and a former governor of Maine, would be distinctive enough — she may be the only University student who actually lived in the President's House. "I enjoyed being at home with my family," recalled Detmer, who transferred from Vassar when her father became president. "I'd been away at boarding school for years before that."
From there, the young woman's life took an exotic turn. In 1953, her father resigned from the University to accept Dwight D. Eisenhower's invitation to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. Detmer would go on to marry the son of the first president of that country. Her daughter, Zareen Taj Mirza '79, was born just after they returned to the United States.
Detmer, who majored in history and taught the subject for three decades, has always placed great value on education, languages and culture, which she instilled in Mirza, a Russian studies major. So when the alumnae decided to make a gift to WE DO, The Campaign for Bucknell, the humanities were a natural fit for the mother-daughter team, who will soon be permanently honored for their generosity. Following a renovation set to begin in June, Demosthenean Hall will emerge next spring as Hildreth-Mirza Hall, a home for the University's Humanities Center.
"The humanities broaden students' minds and their outlook on the world," Detmer said. "The world is a global place now, and if we don't have some understanding of each other, how can we all exist together?"
Professorship in Islamic Studies The women also made a gift that speaks even more specifically to their family history: They endowed the Josephine Hildreth Detmer & Zareen Taj Mirza Professorship in Islamic Studies, Bucknell's first faculty position dedicated to the religion.
"Pakistan was Islamic when we were there," Detmer said. "I studied it, and of course Zareen's father was Islamic. It's a very important religion in the world today, and I thought it was a good idea to bring this subject to the Bucknell curriculum to help others understand and appreciate it."
The gifts demonstrate Detmer's and Mirza's deep commitment to both the humanities and the University, according to Provost Barbara Altmann.
"We are so very grateful for their thoughtful generosity," Altmann said. "The humanities majors that both mother and daughter completed at Bucknell made a lifelong impression and served them well, and their investment in the liberal arts will help these academic areas flourish. Their dedication to the importance of the humanities will illuminate the lives of students in all disciplines and enrich the Bucknell experience for generations to come."
Endowed professorships, perpetual sources of funding to help attract, reward and retain outstanding faculty members, are a new form of University support for Detmer. Her past endowed gifts to Bucknell also honor her father — the need-based Horace A. Hildreth Scholarship and the Horace A. Hildreth Library Fund, which supports acquisitions for Bertrand Library. As the president of Bucknell, Hildreth was instrumental in securing funds from Ellen Clarke Bertrand to build the library.
Mirza hopes their gifts will help more Bucknellians appreciate the humanities' ability to bridge differences by transcending culture, time and place.
"Knowledge of these subjects opens up the world and give us all a platform to share a common understanding with others," she said. "That's what the humanities are all about."
WE DO, The Campaign for Bucknell University The most ambitious comprehensive campaign in University history, the WE DO Campaign has raised more than $450 million toward its half-billion-dollar goal, which it aims to reach this summer. There are many opportunities to support the humanities at Bucknell, including endowed professorships, scholarships, and the Humanities Center building and programs.
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The gift represents the foundation's 3-to-1 match of gifts made to Bucknell by alumni who work for or are retired from ExxonMobil.
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