James Marten
James Marten

The last time we issued a Newsletter was Fall 1998: Hillary Clinton was First Lady rather than the junior U. S. Senator from New York, the Green Bay Packers were on their way to a second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl, Arnold Schwarzenegger was still an actor, and 911 was the number you called when you needed an ambulance. Clearly, much has changed in the world since then.

Much has changed in the department, as well. The chair who wrote this column six years ago, Steve Avella, was succeeded by Lance Grahn in 1999. Lance left the university to become Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at UW-Stevens Point in the summer of 2004, when Dean Michael McKinney appointed me chair (I’ll fill out Lance’s term, then, this summer, begin a three-year term to which I was elected by the department last November).

But the changes in the department since that long-ago newsletter run much deeper than changes in leadership. Joyce Hunkel stepped into the administrative assistant position in September 2001. No fewer than six professors have retired: Karel Bicha, David Gardinier, Robert Hay, Michael Phayer, Ralph Weber, and Ron Zupko. Thomas Hachey, long-time history chair and (in 1998) Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, left for Boston College, where he runs the Irish studies program. Their successors are Nicholas Creary (African and African American), A. Kristen Foster (Early National US), Lezlie Knox (medieval), Timothy G. McMahon (Ireland and Britain), and Daniel Meissner (East Asia). And this fall Laura Matthew will join the department as our Latin American historian.

Curricular changes have also made deep impressions on the department. In the fall of 2003, Marquette implemented a new University Core of Common Studies—courses that all MU students must complete—and most of the Schools and Colleges also revised their core curricula. This resulted in a dramatic expansion of the history courses that “count” in the various core curricula; most students can choose to take Western Civilization or US, African, Asian, or Latin American history. For the first time in the department’s history, every faculty member is involved one way or another in the core curriculum.

In addition, new and long-time faculty members have over the last six years developed upper division courses reflecting their research interests. We now regularly offer courses on the First World War and the Cold War and on the histories of American children and of Rock and Roll. The decision to convert lines from American history to sub-Saharan Africa and to East Asia made possible a whole new set of upper division and graduate courses in those fields. And we’ve expanded our offerings in public history and introduced a new major in military history.

Perhaps the most meaningful change for alumni is that first year students no longer have the coming of age experience of taking Western Civilization in the Varsity Theater! When Phil Naylor stepped down from directing the Western Civilization Program, the department began offering much smaller sections of survey courses taught by visiting assistant professors, who are aided by our thirteen teaching assistants. The new program has worked remarkably well; over the last four years, eleven different men and women have worked in the program (they serve up to three year terms). They have gone on to jobs at Holy Cross, the Universities of Vermont and Massachusetts, Virginia Wesleyan, and Marquette—two of our newest tenure-line colleagues, Kristen Foster and Tim McMahon, are former visiting assistants in our program.

One other significant change: in 2003 the department initiated the Casper Lecture, which brings scholars in non-US history to campus for a public lecture and meetings with graduate students. The first Casper Lecture was delivered by the noted French historian John Merriman of Yale University. Paul Cobb of the University of Notre Dame spoke on Muslim families during the age of the Crusades in 2004; and Suzanne Desan of the University of Wisconsin spoke on marriage and divorce during the French Revolution in 2005.

Continuity has also characterized the last several years. As they have for more than a generation, our faculty maintained an active publication record and held numerous offices in professional organizations. Lance Grahn became the tenth member of the department since 1965 to win the Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, while in 2002 Athan Theoharis was awarded the Faculty Award for Research Excellence. The Frank L. Klement Lectures: Alternative Views of the Sectional Conflict entered its second decade, and continued to bring some of the leading scholars of the Civil War Era to campus.

Joyce Hunkel

That’s all for now. I’d like to thank Joyce Hunkel for her work in posting this newsletter to the department website. Please feel free to pass the website address along to friends and classmates; we obtained email addresses from the Alumni Relations office, so only history grads with up-to-date files received the email linking alumni to this newsletter. With your help, we can reach even more former students. We promise it won’t be six years before you receive another newsletter! In the meantime, check out our newly designed Web site http://www.marquette.edu/history/.

Future newsletters may feature news from former undergraduate and graduate students, so if you have something you’d like to share, please contact our editor, Dan Meissner, at daniel.meissner@marquette.edu.

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