Ottawa University’s Gwartney Institute, an educational and research arm of the Angell Snyder School of Business, has received a $500,000 grant from the Menard Family, founders of the midwestern home improvement store chain.

The grant will help support the institute’s mission to create a unique scholarly environment for the examination and study of economic freedom and social justice and their role in the advancement of human flourishing.

The university will establish a new Gwartney Institute professorship – the Menard Family Professor of Philosophy & Ethics – and expand Menard Family Programs housed in the institute. Dr. Russ McCullough, founder and director of the Gwartney Institute, stated that having a philosophy professor within the institute will position the university to offer more students the opportunity to engage with philosophical principles that tie into the institutions that comprise the complex landscape of economics.

“We are on a frontier of dramatic societal change through automation in the next 20 years,” McCullough said. “As our lives become technologically easier and cheaper to live, the questions that philosophers have grappled with forever will emerge from obscurity like no other time in history. With more and more time and money available, people will increasingly long to uncover meaning and purpose for their lives. The addition of the Menard Family Professor of Philosophy & Ethics will enable the institute to further become a global source of insight into human flourishing – a real edge in the marketplace of ideas.”

McCullough said Dr. Justin Clarke, a current OU faculty member who has during the past year supported and participated in institute programs and initiatives, has been identified to fill the expanded role of the Menard Family Professor of Philosophy & Ethics. Clarke will take on a 30-credit-hour course load during the term of the grant, teaching philosophical and ethical foundations of freedom, justice and human flourishing. He will also contribute to organizing an annual symposium, student programs, conducting research and institute outreach.

“I’m honored and excited to join the Gwartney Institute,” Clarke said. “While pursuing my undergrad degree at U.C. Berkeley, I developed a keen interest in the role that freedom plays in economic and social development, and vice versa. Throughout my graduate studies in philosophy at the University of Kansas, I remained very interested in differing conceptions of justice, and the ways in which institutions could be geared toward advancing those conceptions of justice. I’m looking forward to fruitful discussions about the intersection between economics and philosophy.”

“To stay relevant, all of us need to embrace learning and new ideas, so that we can create an America where nobody gets left behind," the Menard family said in a statement. "We hope our support of Ottawa University will enhance the educational experiences of students, preparing them for future success and inspiring generational prosperity throughout communities across the midwest to lead the way.”

OU Chancellor Kevin Eichner said the new professorship and enhanced opportunities being made possible by this grant will be integral to the Gwartney Institute’s continued contribution to the university’s vision and mission and its liberal arts tradition.

“We are grateful for this contribution from the Menard family and for the recognition of the vital intersection of economics, social change, business, and philosophy as we prepare to enter yet another decade in the life of our 155-year-old institution,” Chancellor Kevin Eichner said. “The Angell Snyder School of Business, through its Gwartney Institute, is constantly striving to place our graduates on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary thinking and capabilities in a world that already requires and values it. This professorship is a key to ensuring that such thinking is ongoing and impactful for our students for many years to come.”

According to OU President Dr. Reggies Wenyika, the goals and outcomes for the professorship align perfectly with the university’s mission to prepare students for lifetimes of personal significance.

“Integrating philosophy and ethics into the already robust offerings of the Angell Snyder School of Business and the Gwartney Institute will help the university graduate more self-actualized students who are engaged in societal issues,” Wenyika said.

According to the Menard family, their commitment to Ottawa University will enable the Gwartney Institute “to continue building a unique scholarly environment for the discussion of public solutions to poverty, how technology innovation will impact society, and the overlap of markets, governance, faith, and philosophy.”

A celebration of the Menard family’s grant is planned for today (Saturday). It will be held during halftime of the Braves 1 p.m. football game against Friends University.