Bentz Whaley Flessner

There’s something funny about a new set of scholarships at the University of Portland, starting with the name: the Brian Doyle Scholarships for Gentle & Sidelong Humor.

The awards will go to undergraduates at the Roman Catholic institution who propose projects—such as films, comic books, essays, or performances—that make people laugh and draw them together.

Brian Doyle, the writer for whom the scholarships are named, is amused by their amounts. “This guy’s gift was $9,999.99 for three scholarships of $3,333.33 each,” he says. “I feel like sending him a penny. Round it off, for God’s sake.”

The “guy” behind the scholarships is John C. Beckman, who donated the money along with his wife, Patricia. The couple are 1942 graduates of the university, and Mr. Beckman is an admirer of Mr. Doyle, a poet and author who edits the university’s Portland Magazine. Mr. Doyle’s essays casually expose the humor lurking in such unlikely topics as divorce, infidelity, and terrorism.

“Humor is a great way to deflate pomposity,” Mr. Doyle says. Cultural discourse is too often confrontational and partisan, he says. “Humor is a great way to slide sideways and find ways into things.” He cites Mark Twain as an inspiration.

Full article text available via Chronicle of Higher Education, 5/6/12.

Comments are closed.