Retired Professor Gifts USM $300,000 to Create Visiting Philosophers Series

Recently retired Philosophy Professor Robert Louden has given the University a parting gift: $300,000 to fund the annual Louden Family Lecture Series.

Louden, who tends to live frugally, was surprised by a recent inheritance. He chose to invest his newfound wealth in the academic space. Rather than financing a building or scholarship, he chose to double down on his tireless dedication to thought by investing in ideas and thinkers. In honor of his late father, who enjoyed seeing speakers and hearing new ideas and arguments, Louden worked with the USM Philosophy Department to create the Louden Family Lecture Series.

Professor Louden stands next to a painting of Scottish philosopher, David Hume.
Robert Louden stands with a portrait of 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh during a trip to St Andrews University.

“A university should be more than buildings,” Louden said. “My hope is that this lecture series will help to bring new ideas to campus – ideas that will engage not only students, faculty, and staff, but also the larger Portland community as well.”

The lecture series will start October 25, 2023, and will feature Yale’s Birgit Baldwin Professor of Humanities, Martin Hägglund, who specializes in Post-Kantian philosophy, critical theory, and modernist literature. He will speak on the topic “The Value of the Humanities” .

As an eminent scholar on the works of philosopher Immanuel Kant, Louden has had the opportunity to meet remarkable people and attend philosophical conferences across the globe. The lecture series will offer a similar experience for students by allowing them to engage with an array of noted philosophers right at the University of Southern Maine. The lecture series aims to promote dialogue, foster a sense of belonging, and create fresh perspectives by bringing together diverse ideas and viewpoints in an engaging and thought-provoking way. These lectures will be open to the full University community and the public as part of Louden’s and the Philosophy Department’s commitment to the value of philosophy.

Regarding the lecture series, Professor Jason Read, Chair of USM’s Philosophy Department said, “The Department of Philosophy is very excited to host these lectures and bring philosophy to not only the entire university, but also to the community and the state of Maine. In doing so, we hope to show that philosophical reflection is an indispensable aspect of political and cultural life.”

Louden taught Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine for 40 years, until fall 2022. In his retirement, Louden continues to write and research. He is currently translating and editing two late-18th century German books that Kant used as texts for the course he taught on pedagogy at Königsberg University. The texts will be published by Bloomsbury in their “Kant’s Sources in Translation” series.