Since 2001, I have taught college level art history classes to low-income adults in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston through the Clemente Course in the Humanities. Since 2011, I have served as the Academic Director of the course.
The Clemente Course in the Humanities is a year-long, college-level introduction to the humanities taught to adults. We teach art history, moral philosophy, American history, literature and writing & critical thinking in Monday and Wednesday evening classes that run from mid-September through early June. The program provides free tuition, books and materials to qualified students. Graduates who complete the work of the program earn six college credits from Bard College, which can be transferred to any college or university.
The course is taught by dedicated teachers who have taught at Harvard, Boston College, Assumption College, UMass Boston, Framingham State and more.
Many people who have taken the course have gone on (or back) to college. Others take the class to educate themselves and exercise their brains, or to meet like-minded people in their community.
Students range in age from 20 to 75; they are parents, grandparents, neighbors, churchgoers, readers — anyone without a degree from a four-year college who is willing to commit to the course is welcome. Some films and slideshows that capture the classroom and student experience can be found here, here and here.
The Clemente Course is taught across the country, including in five other sites in Massachusetts, supported by MassHumanities. Since 2001, the course has been offered in Dorchester in partnership with the Codman Square Health Center.
Boston Clemente Timeline
- In 1995, Earl Shorris teaches the first course at the Roberto Clemente Family Guidance Center in Lower Manhattan; the site gives the course a name.
- In 2000, the first Clemente Course in Massachusetts begins at the Care Center in Holyoke. Kristin O’Connell, Associate Director of Mass Humanities, is the driving force in bringing this concept to the commonwealth.
- In 2001, the class is established in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston as a partnership with Codman Square Health Center. Neil Dolan is the first Academic Director, followed by Tim McCarthy.
- From 2003 through 2005, I co-directed the course with Wendy Quinones.
- In 2011, I took over as Academic Director again, this time by myself.
- In 2014, Timothy P McCarthy, is awarded the Stanley Paterson Professorship in American History; the first endowed chair of any kind for any Clemente program in the world.
- In 2014, documentary film producers James Rutenbeck and Diana Fischer contacted the course about making a film about our students. The film is currently in production.
- In 2014, President Obama awarded the Clemente Course a National Humanities Medal.
- In 2016, I invited our writing instructor, Ann Murphy, to be an Associate Director of our course.
- In 2017, David Montgomery of the Washington Post included our class in his article about the effects of defunding the NEA and NEH.