This is why we invite you to support the third annual Benefit for the Humanities

This year’s Benefit for the Humanities features a timely discussion on free speech with the First Amendment expert Geoffrey Stone and the media scholar Rachel Davis Mersey, as well as a special reading by the former United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.



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The Benefit for the Humanities will be held at the Fairmont in downtown Chicago. 


Geoffrey R. Stone

Benefit for the Humanities

5 January 2019 | Fairmont Chicago 

Geoffrey R. Stone is one of the foremost experts on the First Amendment. He is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and a former dean and provost of the university. Stone is the author of many books on constitutional law, including most recently The Free Speech Century (2018) with Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University. Among his many other books are Sex and the Constitution (2017), which deals with the history of sex, religion, and constitutional law; and Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime (2004), which received eight national book awards. 

Stone is a frequent contributor to a number of national publications, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Economist, Politico, Rolling Stone, and others. Read his most recent articles and op-eds.

Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey served two terms as the nineteenth Poet Laureate of the United States (2012–14). She is the author of five collections of poetry: Monument (2018); Thrall (2012); Native Guard (2006), for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002); and Domestic Work (2000), which won several awards, including the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize for the best first book by an African American poet. Her book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, appeared in 2010.  

She is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among many others. At Northwestern University, she is a Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In 2012 she was named Poet Laureate of the State of Mississippi and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. Read some of  Natasha Trethewey’s poems 

Show your institution’s commitment to students and faculty members in the humanities by sponsoring the MLA Benefit for the Humanities. Join a wide range of academic institutions and companies that have pledged their support for the study of language, literature, writing, and culture!

To learn more about levels of sponsorship and what your gift will support, please consult the sponsor information sheet or contact us at

CauseLocationFeatured GuestsSponsors

The MLA thanks the following sponsors for their generous support of the 2019 Benefit for the Humanities.

Platinum Sponsor $25,000

Saturday, 5 January 
7:45–9:30 p.m.

Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park

200 North Columbus Drive, Chicago, IL

Rouge Showroom, Lobby level


Gold Sponsor $10,000

Silver Sponsor $5,000

Bronze Sponsor $2,500

Participating Sponsor up to $2,500


Total raised by Paving the Way between 2016 and 2018

The Cause


The Benefit for the Humanities was launched in 2017, and since then attendees and donors have contributed half of all funding raised in support of the MLA’s advocacy work. This money has funded grants for contingent faculty members; lobbying efforts in Washington, DC; and new programs that encourage educational innovation and improve career opportunities.


Number of grants for students and teachers funded by Paving the Way in 2018


Career training fellowships and internships supported by Paving the Way since 2016

"The MLA career boot camp was one of the best academic experiences I've had in a long time!"
—Hannah Ryan, SUNY Buffalo  

Funded by Paving the Way

Photos by Edward Savaria, Jr. and Nancy Crampton


Analyzing complex ideas. Using evidence to construct an argument. Seeing the world through anothers eyes. These are the skills that the humanities teach. And they are essential for building and sustaining a strong civil society.


Proceeds from the Benefit for the Humanities make up the majority of funds raised by the Paving the Way campaign, which in just two years has already had a significant effect on the lives of students and teachers. 



We will be announcing this year's special guests shortly. Stay tuned!


Rachel Davis Mersey

Rachel Davis Mersey is a distinguished scholar of journalism and its role in identity, community, media, and democracy. She holds several titles at Northwestern University, including associate professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications; executive director of the Media Leadership Center; and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. Mersey’s publications include Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America’s Appetite for News (2010) and the coauthored volume Mobile Disruptions in the Middle East (2018). 

Mersey is a recipient of the Newsroom Excellence Award and the Gannett Innovator Drive for Excellence Award and was a James Beard Award finalist.

University of Arizona, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Division of Humanities 

Cigna Healthcare 

EisnerAmper LLP 

George Mason University, Department of English

Hamilton College 

Indiana University, Department of English 

JDM Benefits


Kerber Gost Agency 

New York University, Department of Spanish and Portugese



New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Northwestern University, Department of English

Ohio State University, Department of English 

Rutgers University, Department of English

Spherical Cow 

University of Iowa, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies 

University of Michigan, Department of English Language and Literature

Vanderbilt University, Department of German, Russian, and East European Studies 

University of Virginia

Washington and Lee University 


Macalester College

University of South Florida, Department of English

Swarthmore College

Chandrika K. Tandon