Humanities Honors Program

Spartan Voices

Giving to the Humanities Honors Program is funding an intangible. It’s funding what everyone longs for: the possibility for students to become educated and to know how to learn for the rest of their lives. It’s supporting the potential of all these wonderful young students.

- Cynthia Rostankowski, associate professor and Humanities Honors Program director

Gaining New Perspectives

On any given day, Humanities Honors Program students examine the arts, literature, philosophy and history, and toss around questions like, “What is truth?”

Artist Mark Tansey says Humanities Honors was the crucial course of his college education—an experience that has continued to inform his art practice.

Tansey’s highly complex paintings often include thought-provoking visual puzzles. “The Innocent Eye Test” (1981), for example, contains an image of the famous 17th-century painting “The Bull” by Paulus Potter. Humanities Honors Program students might wonder: What is the painting about? What is its historical context? Is its meaning relevant today? The conundrum of the painting within the painting gets students thinking, questioning and sharing their ideas.

In the late 1960s, Tansey came to San Jose State specifically for the humanities program that his father, Dick Tansey, helped to found with three other faculty members in 1954. With a generous gift from Maxine Fink, ’43 Elementary Education—whose husband, Jack, was another of the program’s founders—the Humanities Honors Program will continue to inspire young people to think critically, to ask questions and to be open to multiple perspectives.

“The best thing higher education can do is to offer knowledge—not just of one specialty, but an overview of how all of the specialized departments are connected,” says Tansey. “I thank the Humanities Honors Program for the most practical and highest quality education possible.