News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

Date: September 23, 2004 (04-86) 

Montgomery College Launches New Institute to Encourage Civic Participation
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan Gives Keynote Address 

Montgomery College officials, faculty and students joined county and community leaders today in the launch of The Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement.  Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan gave the keynote address, speaking to the importance of people becoming engaged in American culture and the political process through grassroots community leadership, voting, volunteerism, and local activism.

The Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College was created to celebrate and increase knowledge of American culture, history, principles, and political traditions, and to inspire informed civic participation about critical issues affecting the local, national, and global communities.  The Institute, which never endorses a candidate or subscribes to a partisan platform, serves the College’s students, faculty, and staff as well as the greater community.

“The Paul Peck Institute of American Culture and Civic Engagement will encourage Montgomery College students and county residents to learn about our American history, traditions, and culture of the United States.” said Dr. Charlene Nunley, president of Montgomery College.  “We want Montgomery College to be the place that inspires students and community members to become informed citizens of the world, who critically examine issues, make informed choices, and participate in civic life.” 

Since its inception in January of this year, the Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement has supported the free and democratic exchange of diverse ideas.  With as many as 175 countries represented in the College’s student body, the Institute has co-sponsored several events to encourage civic participation, such as a Community Conversations Town Meeting about

patriotism; a reading by New York author Ellis Avery from her book, The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001; and the upcoming DebateWatch event which invites group viewing and discussion of the first presidential debate.

Recently, the Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College received a By the People grant from PBS-MacNeil/Lehrer Productions to support its Jefferson Café initiative.  The Institute’s Jefferson Cafés bring together small groups of people for two-hour discussions of American values and issues, and of the role of the United States in the global community.  Jefferson Cafés have been held on Montgomery College campuses and at community centers, senior centers, and libraries.  Participants are asked to read a selected article ahead of time to spur dialogue on topics such as the American dream, political ethics in the age of global terror, and the breakdown and rebuilding of community in the United States and abroad. 

"We must educate Americans of all ages about our country, our history, our principles, and our responsibilities; and we must get more people participating in the civic and political process,” said Paul Peck, Institute founder and benefactor, in a letter outlining his vision for the Institute.  “Accomplishing these goals is critical to our freedom, our strength, and our future.”


The Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement was named in honor of Paul Peck, one of Montgomery College’s most generous benefactors.  His contributions have also helped to create the Paul Peck Humanities Institute and to support other arts and humanities programs at Montgomery College.  Peck, a retired computer systems engineer and private investor, received an honorary degree from Montgomery College at the 2003 commencement ceremony. 


To learn more about the Paul Peck Institute for American Culture and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College, contact Dr. Francine Jamin, Institute director, at 240-567-1385.

#  #  #

Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park, plus workforce development and continuing education centers in Gaithersburg, Wheaton and  Silver Spring. The College serves nearly 50,000 students a year, through both credit and non-credit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.