Wilbur Fellows Programs

“Nurturing the Moral Imagination among Those Who Write and Read”
A Residential Fellowship Program Unlike Any Other
The Wilbur Fellows Program has been in continuous operation for nearly forty years. It counts among its numbers hundreds of alumni currently teaching at secondary and university levels, as well as publishers and editors, officers in the services, business and legal professionals, and religious leaders.

The Kirk Center’s Residential Fellows Program affords students and scholars the ideal conditions in which they can conduct important research and writing. Fellows write books, essays, reviews, and theses while staying at Piety Hill for periods ranging from a few months to one year. Frequent in-house seminars formalize an already close and stimulating intellectual environment.

Since 1979, the Wilbur Fellowship Program has been central to the Mecosta experience for hundreds of students and professors. The program is named for Marguerite Eyer Wilbur, who was born in 1889, graduated from Stanford and the University of Southern California, and subsequently enjoyed an active career advancing the fine arts and the craft of writing. She edited five books and translated nine others, including two by Dumas and several about the exploits of Spanish buccaneers and missionaries in early California. She also authored several books, among them a study of the East India Company and biographies of Francis Drake, Philip II, and Thomas Jefferson.

Chief among Mrs. Wilbur’s ambitions was to create a program for assisting writers of promise, a colony for serious thinkers and artists. She was a great admirer of Russell Kirk’s writings, so late in life she asked him to join with her in the creation of a new foundation that aimed to establish a little literary platoon, a place where aspiring writers and thinkers could reside for periods of time to pursue research and other imaginative endeavors. As Kirk put it, “It seems to me that the work of this foundation is the nurturing of the moral imagination among those who write and read.” Mrs. Wilbur’s lawyer, Gary Ricks, followed her as steward of this program and ably guided it until his retirement.

The program they developed to extend that mission is the Wilbur Fellowship Program, an academic community that was centered about the household of Russell and Annette Kirk. To this day, students and scholars come to Piety Hill to reside, study, and write at what is now the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal, founded after Kirk’s death to institutionalize this unique literary community.

Each year undergraduate and graduate students apply for a residential research and study grant. The awardees come to live and work at the Kirk Center which is comprised of six buildings and is centered on Kirk’s Dutch-barn library and his ancestral house.

The Fellowship Program is currently divided into three parts: Junior Fellows and Graduate Fellows reside in Mecosta while working on educational advancement—an independent study, a thesis, dissertation, or book. They are chosen by completing the application process.

Senior Fellows are teaching professionals or persons in the world of affairs who provide intellectual life to the Center by completing their own projects, often as part of a sabbatical, in addition to participating in and leading Center events. While they often spend a period of time in residence, Senior Fellows are not required to do so and often represent the Center to the greater public.

The Wilbur Fellows Program has been in continuous operation for nearly forty years. It counts among its numbers hundreds of alumni currently teaching at secondary and university levels, as well as publishers and editors, officers in the services, business and legal professionals, and religious leaders.

The Kirk Center has also welcomed as Wilbur Fellows scholars and students from Austria, Britain, France, Holland, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Romania, Yugoslavia, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic—giving the Center an important international dimension.

Fellows’ Voices

Hannah DeRocher

“Kirk’s writings made me rethink the power of imagination and the American Republic.  I am now teaching his Roots of American Order to my senior high school Humanities class.  His questions and text are a constant education for me both in history and in pedagogy.  Living in the Califia [house], reading in the same place Mr. Kirk wrote his books, cooking feasts with other Fellows, spending time every night having discussions about conservatism and culture under the cedar trees, made for an exquisitely humane experience.”

Glen Sproviero

“To stay at Piety Hill is to visit another world, a world full of learning and hope…. The spirit of history comes alive at Dr. Kirk’s ancestral home, where the feeling of community breeds new ideas and confirms the eternal verities.

If every student were to receive this education, most would be able to see beyond the politicization of the academy and view the world with a genuinely open mind.”

Glen Sproviero
St. Andrews University, M. Phil.
Rutgers School of Law, J.D.
Practicing attorney in New York

Ryan Streeter

“My time as a Fellow at The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal was a pivotal moment in my professional development. During the time I spent at the Center, I benefited in three consequential ways.

First, I was able to complete the bulk of my dissertation prospectus (for my Ph.D. in political philosophy from Emory University) utilizing the remarkable library holdings and unmatchable environment for study and research.

Second, I sharpened my arguments and views through the regular interaction with other fellows and esteemed visitors to the Center.

Third, through the extended network of individuals associated with the Center, I was able to move into the world of public policy in a way that allowed me to hold positions of significant responsibility.”

– Ryan Streeter was a Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy at the White House in 2005-2007. He is Director of Domestic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Maloney, Attorney

“The Kirk Center provides the encouragement, support, guidance, strength, vision, and hope required to continue the work of the conservative movement. In the midst of the current political and moral climate of the US, there is no greater means of ‘rallying the really human things’ than being granted the opportunity to spend time browsing the books of Dr. Kirk’s library, listening to discussions by noted scholars, and continually conversing on the restoration of fundamental principles.”

Spasimir Domaradzki

“Prior to my arrival, I didn’t know what to expect from a ‘platonic academy,’ as former resident, Professor Rett Ludwikowski described it, remote from most of the main scholarly centers in the United States. My first steps in Mecosta were somehow hesitant. This however changed the moment I crossed the doorstep of the most fascinating library I have ever seen. The cozy atmosphere attracts the reader and provokes interesting and enriching discussions with other Fellows who can be met at every hour of the day.

In this regard it should be mentioned that one of the enormous advantages of the Center is the broad spectrum of research interests represented. Scholars with interests in history, theology, literature, politics and many other disciplines can meet and share ideas and opinions which widen one’s perspective. From day one I felt surrounded by people ready to discuss every issue that concerned me and to encourage my research. This kind of attitude might seem natural to many, but only those away from their families can understand the warmth and strength that such an attitude conveys. The Russell Kirk Center has excellent accommodations, vast research possibilities, and fantastic relations among people.”

Spasimir Domaradzki received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Jagiellonian University. He is currently the Vice Dean at the Andrzej Fryez Modrzewski University College in Krakow, Poland.

Recent Work from the Wilbur Fellows

European Wilbur Fellow Alumni Gather to Celebrate Kirk Centenary

Four European Wilbur Fellow alumni gathered on May 12th in Rome, Italy, to honor the centenary of Kirk’s birth: Marco Respinti, the Italian translator of The Roots of American Order and a distinguished journalist in Milan; Enrico Graziani from Sapienza University in Rome; Harold Bergbauer, a political science professor from Munich, Germany; and Mario Fantini, editor of The European Conservative magazine, who resides in Vienna, Austria. They participated in a one-day conference focused on the contribution of ancient Rome to Western civilization, drawing upon Kirk’s book The Roots of American Order. They also shared their memories of Dr. Kirk and thoughts on his legacy, as well as news of their current projects.

 

Bergbauer, Fantini, with Drs. Christian Kopff and George Nash, Graziani, and Respinti in Rome.

Clinton Collister, a 2018 Wilbur Fellow, Completes Writing Project on Poet Geoffrey Hill

Clinton Collister, a teacher in the humanities at Bloomfield Christian School and adjunct professor at Rochester College, spent the summer in residence as a Wilbur Fellow.  Clinton’s primary project was reading and writing on the moral imagination of poet Geoffrey Hill.

As well as discussions with Annette Kirk and seminar participants, Clinton appreciated the interaction of the scholars affiliated with the Center, particularly Senior Fellow James Person and Board Member Dr. Ben Lockerd.  Upon his departure, Clinton wrote that the “Kirk Center truly is the ‘last homely house’, and I think it offers something unique among conservative institutions. Dr. Kirk envisioned the world in a holistic way, refusing to mistake any part for the whole, and this allowed him to conserve and participate in letters, politics, arts, and economics. I hope the Kirk Center can continue to offer fellowships to students and scholars and writers who represent all these aspects of Dr. Kirk’s work, conserving what is good and true and beautiful.”

 

Former Wilbur Fellow Mihail Neamtu Stands for Romanian Parliament

Mihail Neamtu, who was a Wilbur Fellow in 2008, visited the Center this past summer to introduce one of his students to the thought of Dr. Kirk and to update us on his activities.

After receiving a masters in patristics from Durham University and a PhD in theology and religious studies from King’s College, London, Dr. Neamtu was instrumental in establishing the Institute for the History of Religions under the Romanian Academy.  He is the author of ten books on American politics, Christianity, and Islam, as well as on new trends in Marxist culture. He is a regular guest on the BBC’s Romanian Section and on Radio France Internationale.

Currently, Dr. Neamtu is running for the Romanian Parliament as a candidate from Bucharest.

Former Fellows: Reconnect through our Facebook Group

 

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