Community invited to attend the dedication of Lentz House
The dedication of Lentz House this month comes as building namesake Perry Lentz concludes a forty-year career as a teacher of English at Kenyon.
Lentz, the Charles P. McIlvaine Professor of English, will close the door to his snug, first-floor office in Sunset Cottage for the last time after he concludes his final course, on Paradise Lost. He noted that he will then indulge at least fleetingly in the "sloth and ignoble ease" the epic poem cautions against.
Lentz will continue to reside in Gambier, near if not in the shadow of Lentz House, the new Department of English nerve center that crowns the hill roughly across Wiggin Street from the Finn House home of the Kenyon Review. Lentz House will be dedicated in a ceremony during an open house that begins at 4:00 p.m. on April 24.
"It is overwhelming," Lentz said of the honor. "It still seems to me somewhat unjust. I would think people would receive huge awards like this for having labored at something that was a real sacrifice. And this has never been a sacrifice. Lots of hard work and lots of evenings and hours after classes, frustrated that I had not served the students better."
Lentz has served Kenyon well, said President S. Georgia Nugent. "Perry Lentz has been a defining presence at Kenyon for forty years," Nugent said. "It is wonderfully fitting that this new home for the English department has been named in his honor by so many of his students and friends."
The finishing touches on Lentz House should be done by mid-July. Construction of the 7,176-square-foot building cost about $1 million, drawn from the contributions of thirty-eight donors, many former students. The house includes two seminar rooms and nine offices and is equipped with elevator service. The cupola sheds natural light onto a staircase below.
Among the donors are Julia Heldman Thomas '80 and Bruce V. Thomas '78 of Richmond, Virginia. Julia spent her junior year in the United Kingdom in the Kenyon-Exeter Program, when Lentz was the Exeter director. She praised his surpassing intellect and quick wit. "The year at Exeter with Perry and Jane Lentz was one of the most defining points in my life," she said. "That time, that amazing academic and cultural experience, the life-long relationship with them that really took root there—these are what have made Kenyon so special to me.
"How could I not be involved with the Lentz building?"
Lentz, in turn, has appreciated the role played by students, and then alumni, in his life. "They have rewarded me in so many incredible ways," he said. "The students are here to be educated. They are not competitive. They are not cut-throat. They're generous and they delight in being educated. They're open and candid.
"It is a rare class hour here that I have not left having learned something myself and a rare class hour that I have not had the feeling that I should be paying to do this and not being paid," he said. "I have found that the teaching itself has been such an incredible reward."
On April 7, Lentz was named the senior winner of the annual Trustee Teaching Excellence Award. On May 16, at the 181st Commencement, Lentz will receive an honorary doctorate in humane letters.