Development begins on Krebs Center for the Humanities
Lake Forest College receives major gift to support the humanities, and names its new Executive Director
With renewed focus on the broad humanist tradition that can benefit today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders, Lake Forest College has begun developing the new Krebs Center for the Humanities, naming current Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty Davis Schneiderman as the Center’s founding executive director.
Located in the Italianate Lake Forest home and surrounding property donated to the College by Trustee Robert D. Krebs and his wife Anne in early 2023, the new Krebs Center will be a nexus for humanities activities. In an inspirational and profound setting, the Krebs Center will balance its activities across three primary pillars: in the support and promotion of exceptional scholarship, excellent teaching, and public interest in and support for the arts and humanities.
“The humanities in all their diversity can inspire and challenge us. We can travel through the centuries or journey through the cosmos in the pages of a book, the melody of a song, or the brushstrokes of a painting,” Executive Director of the Krebs Center Davis Schneiderman said.
In 2013, the Krebs family first made public their intention to donate their home and extensive medieval and Renaissance art collection to the College, but plans had been more than a decade in the making. Through their gift, the Krebs have ensured that Lake Forest’s humanities community has a place nearby dedicated specifically to its needs. The home and its contents, which includes a museum-grade art collection, will give students access to a completely different era and locale. “It’s like going to an overseas campus, except students only have to travel about six blocks rather than fly to Europe,” Robert Krebs said.
Creating a Center for the Humanities aligns with the Krebs goals for the home they designed and carefully furnished to accurately represent the Renaissance era. Immersing yourself in the humanities “makes you curious, makes you want to explore, and makes you appreciate [what others have created],” Robert said. “The humanities are a good foundation to build your life on. This home is a visual representation of that.” While the Center’s impressive collection emphasizes art, architecture, and furniture, the entire location is an attraction in and of itself. “We never started out thinking we were going to, in essence, build a museum. But then it turned out we kind of did,” Robert Krebs said. “We thought it should be preserved,” Anne Krebs said of their gift to the College.
The Krebs Center’s mission will require dedicated and innovative leadership. Schneiderman, the founding Executive Director of the Krebs Center, has served as a Professor of English since 2001 and is concluding five successful years as provost and dean to return his focus to the areas of his training, scholarship, and passion. In this new role, Schneiderman will develop the academic plans for the Krebs Center during the 2023-24 academic year, with an expected first year of full operation scheduled for the 2024-25.
Exciting new ideas
“We’re already at work on exciting new ideas, including how to think about the humanities in a world of increased automation and artificial intelligence, ” Schneiderman said. “The Krebs Center is not only an impressive collection of the past, but a place where we will bring the past into direct conversation with the issues of the moment: how did we build a world where automation and AI technologies exist, and what do we want this world to value?”
Schneiderman stated that serving as the Executive Director of the Krebs Center is “an incredible honor and an incredible responsibility. Lake Forest College’s humanities faculty are amazing teachers and scholars, and their daily work will prove the continued inspiration for the Krebs Center. At a time when the value of the humanities has been subject to continued questioning, this transformative gift from Rob and Anne Krebs will benefit our community for generations to come.”
The development of the Krebs Center for the Humanities will open doors to new aspects of learning for students at Lake Forest College. Natalie Hingsberger ’24, for one, believes the Krebs Center will provide opportunities for hands-on art museum experience that would normally require an internship in Chicago. An art history major who is double-minoring in museum studies and digital media design, Hingsberger is considering museum curation as a possible career choice.
“I’ve had some great classes at the College, including Contemporary Exhibition Practices, that were very hands-on. If the Krebs Center could be incorporated into that type of hands-on learning, it would make humanities studies at the College even more impactful,” she said.
Fatma Allam ’26, a double major in sociology and anthropology and psychology who is minoring in English, believes the Krebs Center will be a visual representation to everyone about the important role the humanities hold at the College.
“It will be incredible for students to have access to the Krebs Center as a workspace and research space,” she said. Noting the outstanding facilities in the Lillard Science Center and the recent redevelopment of Brown Hall, Allam said she is excited the College is creating a space specifically for the humanities.
“If the Krebs Center could aid the learning environment and experience for humanities students, I think this will be great,” she said.
Schneiderman is well-positioned for the challenge.
He was selected as Lake Forest College’s Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty from a field of national candidates in 2017, helping to steer the College through the pandemic and to help lead the academic program in a time of record enrollment. He formerly directed the College’s Center for Chicago Programs, led the Digital Chicago grant from the Mellon Foundation (whose projects are now housed in the digital collection of the Chicago History Museum), and helped to attain and steer the College’s current Humanities 2020 Mellon grant. Schneiderman also strengthened the College’s collaborations with numerous external partners, facilitated beneficial changes in the College’s summer programs, and pursued numerous key initiatives in his role as Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation.
In his faculty role at the College, Schneiderman has chaired the Department of English and American Studies Program, co-launched the College’s annual Literary Festival, helped develop the Print and Digital Publishing Minor, and received promotion to full professor. Schneiderman has taught innovative courses at Lake Forest College on topics as broad as selfies and drones, the Grateful Dead and American culture, science fiction, consumerism, and all levels of creative writing.
An award-winning author and editor, Schneiderman’s academic work focuses on contemporary and innovative literature. He has written extensively on William S. Burroughs and is recognized as a top scholar in that field. Schneiderman is also a well-regarded creative writer. His first short-story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji, is being prepped for release, and his novels include the conceptual novels BLANK, [SIC], INK.; along with Drain, a climate-fiction dystopia story from Northwestern University Press. Schneiderman’s work has appeared in numerous publications including Fiction International, Harpers.org, the Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, TriQuarterly, and Exquisite Corpse. He has co-edited several anthologies, including The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism's Parlor Game.
Schneiderman has read and performed around the world, including everywhere from the Chicago Humanities Festival to the Ukrainian Embassy, in Washington DC, to performances in Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, England, and Morocco, among many others. Schneiderman is a journalist and interviewer; a long-time contributor for The Huffington Post, he has also interviewed Sherry Turkle, John Waters, Regina Taylor, and David Shields, and Aleksandar Hemon, among many others. Schneiderman also live interviews the author for the annual Lake Forest Reads community read program in Lake Forest.