Honoring the individual for whom it is named and the faculty member who holds it, the Benjamin T. Spencer Professorship in Literature made history for Ohio Wesleyan University: for the first time at the institution an endowed chair was named for a living professor and for the first time a chair was fully funded by the endowment.
Under the terms of the professorship, a member of the English Department faculty is chosen to fill the chair for a two-year term, renewable once. The incumbent is to deliver yearly a public lecture, which carries a stipend.
Funding was made possible by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities which was matched in three years by gifts, pledges, life income gifts and bequests chiefly from the students who remembered and loved Professor Spencer as a teacher and a mentor. A professor of English and Humanities at Ohio Wesleyan University for nearly forty years, Professor Spencer retired in 1969.
Professor Spencer taught an estimated 7,000 students, and is remembered especially for his popular courses on Shakespeare and American literature. Professor Spencer, a graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College, received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cincinnati. Before joining the faculty at Ohio Wesleyan, he taught at Kentucky Wesleyan. He also taught at the Universities of London and Manchester, England, as a Fulbright Lecturer, and at Uppsala and Stockholm Universities in Sweden, and at Wesleyan University.
The holder of honorary degrees from his Alma Mater and Kentucky Wesleyan, he was an honorary alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan and in 1963 was the first recipient of the Bishop Herbert Welch Meritorious Teacher Award.
He wrote numerous articles and several books, including The Quest for Nationality, Patterns of Nationality, and a volume on memorable dogs in literature.
2016-2018 Benjamin T. Spencer Professor of Literature
Dr. Karen Poremski
Record of Faculty Holding Spencer Chair
Professor Ryan, 2014-2016
Professor Caplan, 2012-2014
Professor DeMarco , 2009-2011
Professor Hipsky, 2006-2008
Professor Carpenter, 2003-2005
Professor Prindle, 1999-2003
Professor Lewes, 1994-1995, 1996-1998
Professor Musser, 1988-1992