History of the Watson Endowment

In 1995, Dr. Thomas R. Watson, a Louisville physician, banker, and entrepreneur, donated 1.2 million dollars to the English Department of the University of Louisville to endow a biennial International Conference in Rhetoric and Composition and a Visiting Distinguished Professorship. The gift is a mark not only of Dr. Watson's extraordinary generosity but also of his imaginative and far-sighted vision. He believed in the fundamental importance of a literate citizenry, and of the vital task faced by the liberal arts in educating students to become critical, active, and engaged readers and writers.

The past themes of the Thomas R. Watson Conference on Rhetoric and Composition are:

  • Toward the Antiracist Conference: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present (2021)
  • Making Future Matters (2018)
  • Mobility Work in Composition: Translation, Migration, Transformation (2016)
  • Responsivity: Defining, Encouraging, Enacting (2014)
  • Economies of Writing (2012)
  • Working English in Rhetoric and Composition: Global-Local Contexts, Commitments, Contexts (2010)
  • The New Work of Composing (2008)
  • Narrative Knowledge, Narrative Action (2006)
  • Writing at the Center (2004)
  • Composing Identities (2002)
  • Labor, Writing Technologies, and the Shaping of Composition in the Academy (2000)
  • Multiple Literacies for the Twenty-First Century (1998)
  • The Professionalization of Composition, 1963-1993 (1996)

Watson Visiting Professors

Dr. Watson's endowment also provides for a distinguished visiting professor of Rhetoric and Composition in the years between conferences. Doctoral students at the University of Louisville can thus expect to study with at least two visiting professors and to participate in two international conferences on Rhetoric and Composition during their tenure in the program.

Past visiting professors are:

  • Beverly Moss (2022)
  • Gesa Kirsch (2019)
  • LuMing Mao (2017)
  • Dànielle DeVoss (2015)
  • Carolyn R. Miller (2013)
  • A. Suresh Canagarajah, Ralph Cintron, and Brian Street (2011)
  • Marilyn Cooper (2010)
  • Keith Gilyard (2008)
  • Deborah Brandt (2006)
  • Cynthia Selfe (2003)
  • Cheryl Geisler (2001)
  • George Hillocks (1999)
  • Charles Bazerman (1997)