Published: Tue Sep 6, 2005Tennessee Tech University will present its first ever Nolan Fowler Constitution Day Celebration at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, in Derryberry Auditorium with a lecture by Daniel Dreisbach, a professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs.
The topic of his talk will be how Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut redefined the constitutional relationship between church and state, and how Jefferson’s “wall of separation” phrase led to the short-hand term still used today for the Establishment Clause — “separation of church and state.”
“Constitution Day is an unfunded mandate enacted into law by Congress last spring, and it requires public universities and colleges that receive federal funding to set aside a day devoted to teaching about the Constitution,” said Sharon Whitney, associate professor of political science who teaches American government and pre-law courses at TTU and an organizer of the event.
Named in honor of Nolan Fowler, a retired history professor at TTU who taught constitutional development at the university from 1962 to 1979, the planned annual event was made possible this year and in years to come by his $150,000 commitment to establish the Constitution Day Celebration at TTU.
“I was very happy to provide this money because the Constitution is so important — it’s the foundation for our entire system of government — yet so many people know so little about it,” Fowler said.
Whitney said TTU is fortunate to have Fowler’s support for carrying out the federal mandate. “His gift certainly came along at the right time,” she said.
TTU President Bob Bell agreed, saying, “This event couldn’t be named in honor of a more deserving candidate. As a longtime instructor of constitutional law here at TTU, Dr. Fowler touched the lives of many students, and his commitment to our Constitution Day Celebration will insure that his influence continues to touch lives.”
Lecturer Dreisbach previously served as a judicial clerk for a justice on the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and as a public interest lawyer specializing in civil and religious liberties.
At American University, his principal research interests include American constitutional law and history, First Amendment law, church and state relations, and criminal procedure. He has written extensively on these topics in numerous scholarly journals and as author or editor of five books.
Possible topics for future Constitution Day Celebrations at TTU include:
• The influence of George Washington and John Marshall on interpreting the Constitution;
• Advantages and disadvantages of the way the U.S. Supreme Court’s exercises judicial review;
• Life tenure of judges in the constitutional court system;
• Contrast of narrow and broad interpretation of the Constitution;
• And the influence of associate judges — not to exceed four — upon U.S. Supreme Court decisions.