Howard L. Sacks began teaching at Kenyon in 1975 and was selected as Kenyon's first recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professorship in 1994. His courses included social psychology, contemporary social theory, community and field research. He has particular interest in traditional art and culture and in the past offered additional courses in folklore, ethnomusicology and cultural politics. As director of Kenyon's Rural Life Center, Sacks oversaw a wide range of public projects with students and faculty on local rural life. He also served as Senior Advisor to the President (2004-2008) and Provost (2008-2009).

His publications have appeared in American Quarterly, American Music, Theatre Survey, the Journal of American Folklore, Contemporary Sociology, Social Forces, Symbolic Interaction, the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Quarterly, as well as numerous magazines and newspapers. His book, "Way Up North in Dixie: A Black Family's Claim to the Confederate Anthem" (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2003 [1993]), was hailed in the Nation as "the fullest, most finely detailed account of the musical life of a nineteenth-century African American family anywhere in the United States," and received a 1994 Ohioana Book Award.  Professor Sacks was twice awarded an NEH Fellowship for College Teachers for his scholarly research.

Sacks has served on panels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as on the board of directors of the National Council for the Traditional Arts; and he consults regularly with organizations and communities on arts and cultural activities. Most recently, he worked in China on efforts to preserve intangible cultural heritage.

As director of Kenyon's Rural Life Center, Professor Sacks regularly guideds projects involving the local community. He has received over thirty grants for scholarly research and public programs, including six award-winning projects on regional life: "Seems Like Romance to Me: Traditional Fiddle Tunes from Ohio;" "The Community Within: Black Experience in Knox County, Ohio"; "Rural Delivery: Family Farming in Knox County, Ohio"; "Life along the Kokosing"; and, "Where Does Our Food Come From?"; and "The Place to Be: Public Life in Knox County, Ohio". 

Howard Sacks is also well known in the area as a guitarist and singer whose repertoire includes blues, country, and rockabilly.  In 2014 he participated in a musical tour across China funded by the U.S. State Department. Sacks has appeared on three recordings.


1975 — Doctor of Philosophy from UNC Chapel Hill

1973 — Master of Arts from UNC Chapel Hill

1971 — Bachelor of Arts from Case Western Reserve Univ, Phi Beta Kappa

Courses Recently Taught

This introductory course explores the collective foundations of individual identity within the American experience. In what sense is the self essentially social? How are changes in identity attributable to the organization of experience throughout life? What are the effects of gender, race and social class on consciousness? How have changes in American industrial capitalism shaped the search for self-worth? In what ways have science and technology altered our relationship to nature? What challenges to identity are posed by emerging events in American history, including immigration and the African diaspora? How has the very advent of modernity precipitated our preoccupation with the question "Who am I?" Situated as we are in a farming community, we will consider these questions of identity through an examination of local rural society. Students will conduct group research projects to connect our ideas to everyday life. Students may take only one introductory-level course. This counts toward the foundation requirement for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. No prerequisite.

Individual study is an exception, not a routine option, with details to be negotiated between the student(s) and the faculty member and the department chair. The course may involve investigation of a topic engaging the interest of both student and professor. In some cases, a faculty member may agree to oversee an individual study as a way of exploring the development of a regular curricular offering. In others, the faculty member may guide one or two advanced students through a focused topic drawing on his or her expertise, with the course culminating in a substantial paper. The individual study should involve regular meetings at which the student and professor discuss assigned material. The professor has final authority over the material to be covered and the pace of work. The student is expected to devote time to the individual study equivalent to that for a regular course. Individual studies will be awarded 0.5 units of credit. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the registrar’s deadline.