Project Pericles is a national consortium of 31 colleges and universities committed to including participatory citizenship and social responsibility as essential elements of their educational programs. Founded by educational philanthropist Eugene M. Lang in 2001, Project Pericles is at the forefront of promoting civic engagement in areas including faculty and curriculum development, research into best practices, and student engagement. Working in the classroom, on the campus, and in the community, Project Pericles and its member institutions have a wealth of experience in developing programs that integrate civil dialogue, civic engagement, and community-based learning across the college experience, most importantly, in the curriculum.
Periclean colleges and universities offer curricular and co-curricular initiatives that prepare and encourage students to become active, responsible citizens. These initiatives include signature Periclean programs Creating Cohesive Paths to Civic Engagement, Creating Curricular Coherence, Debating for Democracy (D4D)™, and the Periclean Faculty Leadership (PFL) Program™, as well as programs that are unique to each campus.
We have a diverse membership of predominately liberal arts colleges with endowments ranging from $10 million to $2 billion on rural, suburban, and urban campuses. Three of our members are HBCUs and many have a high percentage of Pell-eligible or first-generation college students. Project Pericles collaborates and works with a diverse range of constituents including presidents, provosts, deans, faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees, and community members.
In addition to the Eugene M. Lang Foundation, recent supporters of Project Pericles include Bringing Theory to Practice, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Henry Luce Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Spencer Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, and Young Invincibles/Students Learn Students Vote.
Project Pericles is a 501(c)3 public charity governed by an independent Board of Directors.
Eugene M. Lang and 'Reclaiming the Legacy of Pericles'
Eugene M. Lang, a retired entrepreneur well-known for his philanthropic ventures in education, was asked to write an essay for Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on the continuing relevance of the traditional mission of liberal arts colleges. In his 1999 essay, Lang addressed a national concern: the growing political cynicism and civic disengagement of young people. He was aware that many colleges and universities have responded to this concern with student-driven community service programs. He felt, however, that most of these programs have been peripheral to curricula, with little lasting impact on the civic attitudes of students. In effect, Pericles’ legacy to higher education was eroding, threatening the ultimate viability of American democracy.
Lang believed that colleges and universities, by reason of their historic mission and uniquely respected position in society, can and should assume a central responsibility for revitalizing Pericles’ vision, ‘reclaiming the legacy of Pericles.’ In 1999, he organized a distinguished Planning Committee that named the nascent organization 'Project Pericles.' Discussions with hundreds of educators and civic leaders helped Lang refine Project Pericles' mission and the basic framework within which colleges and universities can commit to educating students for civic and social responsibilities.
Pericles and Athenian Democracy
Under the leadership of Pericles, Athens established the historic prototype of a democratic society. By recognizing that every citizen, regardless of economic or social status, had both a duty to serve and the potential to lead, Pericles and his fellow Athenians established what became the foundation of modern democracy. The legacy of Pericles is the core precept of America’s founding philosophy and has been historically connected to higher education in the United States. Its mission has embraced the preparation of students for active participation in an expanding, pluralistic society in which citizenship, social responsibility, and community are inseparable.
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