The University of South Florida's Humanity Institute put together a schedule of events celebrating the Hillsborough River. I attended one of the events last night: Dr. Kevin McCarthy, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Florida: “10 Little-known Facts About the Hillsborough River. My reason for writing today is not so much about Dr. McCarthy's talk as much as it is about the USF Humanities Institute's connection to the river, to the community and to me, a non-academic regular citizen with no commercial ties to USF or commerce involving the river.
It would be a total disservice to Dr. McCarthy however, if I didn't mention a couple of things first. I arrived early and spoke (but mostly listened) to Kevin and a couple of the attendees. It took me less than three minutes to decide that I had to have his book, Hillsborough River Guide. I later learned of his connection with Florida and what a prolific writer he is. It was impossible for this connection to not permeate his talk making it interesting and enjoyable. I recommend attending one of his talks if you get the chance and perusing the many books he's written. Although it wasn't like he was giving a talk at Florida State, he did a pretty decent job of keeping a lid on Gator Nation.
I believe that I represent a desired-type of attendee to a Humanities Institute event. I am not a student, researcher, professor or visiting scholar. I am not an Institute donor or sponsor. I am not related to the speaker or staff, nor am I a reporter. While attendance of these types of people is critical to the success of the Institute, I am just a member of the community - who is not a politician, museum employee, involved locally in the arts nor involved in charitable organizations looking to extend reach. I'm just a husband, dad and grandfather who is most intrigued by interdisciplinary human connection that is orchestrated by a great university bent on the enrichment of lives. (I'm not an alumni either:-)
From the Institute's director Dr. Elizabeth Bird to its assistant directior Liz Kicak to the staff to even
the bartender, I felt welcome. The other major felt sense that I experienced was one of caring. I spoke to Dr. Bird for a moment and watched Liz as she engaged in her role of support. It's perfectly clear that they care about the connection they are in pursuit of.
The Hillsborough River is important to me because it symbolizes a sense of place. As we canoed down the river for the first time, I felt drawn into its history and needed to learn more. I was particularly interested in native Americans and the early settlers connection with the river. The folks at Canoe Escape where we rented our canoes, recommended reading River of the Golden Ibis. I wrote a little bit about it here.
So my need to learn more about the Hillsborough River brought me to USF's Humanities Institute. And my need to stoke the fire of curiosity related to interdisciplinary human connection will keep me coming back.