Philosophy Alum Invests in the Future of Humanities Studies
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
After graduating from UMass Amherst with a BA in philosophy in 1978, John Kendzierski set to work applying his degree, growing a thriving business in an industry most would not associate with philosophy: drywall.
But Kendzierski directly equates his success to his philosophy degree. “I was the most educated person doing what I did in the marketplace,” he says. “It gave me a leg up in understanding people and understanding a lot of things that my competitors didn’t.” After starting out with his brother in 1979 and setting out on his own in 1995, Kendzierski has grown his business, Professional Drywall Construction, to be a leading commercial drywall contractor in the Commonwealth that employs 150 people and serves customers in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Kendzierski is a firm believer in the importance of going to college to learn “how to think, not what to think.” He started UMass as the first person in his family to attend a four-year school without a clear idea of what he wanted to study, but quickly came to realize that studying the humanities was a powerful and valuable thing. “Philosophy was at one point in time what people studied; science was secondary,” he points out, speaking to the prestige ideas and thought once held in society. To Kendzierski, humanities equip students with the tools needed to think, write, and—most importantly—produce the ideas that make the world a better place.
With a long and generous giving history to the Fine Arts Center, UMass Athletics, and other areas, Kendzierski remained deeply connected to UMass Amherst over the years. But in 2018, he wanted an opportunity to affect young students’ lives in a direct way.
Working with the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the Department of Philosophy, Kendzierski established the Valuing Humanities Scholarship with a gift of $125,000. Eligible recipients are rising seniors with a primary major in philosophy (or a primary major in another HFA department with a second major in philosophy) who have demonstrated financial need. “There are a lot of parents who are reluctant to fund liberal arts education for their children,” says Kendzierski, who hopes the availability of the scholarship will alleviate the reservations students who want to study philosophy may have.
Kendzierski knows there are many other UMass Amherst alumni whose professional achievements were bolstered by their experiences in humanities classrooms. He hopes the establishment of the Valuing Humanities Scholarship will inspire others to follow suit, and help sustain generations of humanities majors who will, “make the world a better place.”