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In 1991, an anonymous donor made a gift that enabled the College of Liberal Arts to establish its first endowed position, the Oregon Professorship of English. The creation of the Oregon Professorship has special significance. It helps to advance Oregon State's goals of building excellence across disciplines and moving forward as a balanced and comprehensive university. It also recognizes the key role the humanities disciplines play in achieving those goals. Though no one at OSU knows the identity of the donor, as this gift was made through the donor's adviser, the University feels a special sense of gratitude for what this gift has made possible.
David M. Robinson, a scholar of American literature and religion, was named Oregon Professor of English in 1991. He is an expert in the works of the New England Transcendentalist authors of the early 19th century—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau. His 1982 study of Emerson's formative years, Apostle of Culture: Emerson as Preacher and Lecturer, traced the emergence of Emerson's mature philosophy, with its stress on the dignity of the individual and the importance of self-culture. His Emerson and the Conduct of Life (1993) described Emerson's increasing emphasis on ethical philosophy in his later works. The 20th century Southern author, Peter Taylor, was the subject of Robinson's 1998 work, World of Relations: The Achievement of Peter Taylor.
Dr. Robinson's work as a teacher has been recognized by a 1984 Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching from the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. He was also chosen as a Master Teacher in the OSU College of Liberal Arts in 1997. In 1994, he was named a University Distinguished Professor at OSU. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, and has been selected nine times to direct summer seminars for teachers by the National Endowment for the Humanities. These seminars have drawn teachers from around the nation to Oregon State University for sessions on the New England Transcendentalist authors. In 1998, Dr. Robinson was elected President of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, a national scholarly organization devoted to the study and teaching of Emerson's works.
Dr. Robinson earned his B.A. at the University of Texas at Austin, his M.T.S. at Harvard Divinity School, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. He joined the Oregon State faculty in 1976 and has been director of American Studies since 1980.