Our colleague Christopher Collier, historian and author, passed away on March 6, 2020 at the age of 90. He was a member of the UConn History Department from 1984 until 1999. Kit, as he was known, was the official Connecticut State Historian and taught courses at UConn in early American history, Connecticut history, and Connecticut constitutional history. He was a founding member of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society.
His research and writing broadened our understanding of the founding principles of American constitutional government, as well as the role of Connecticut in shaping those principles and their institutions. Among Kit’s publications are: Roger Sherman’s Connecticut: Yankee Politics and the American Revolution; Decision in Philadelphia (with James Lincoln Collier); and All Politics is Local: Family, Friends, and Provincial Interests in the Creation of the Constitution. He was well-known as the author of eight historical novels for young adults (also with James), most notably, My Brother Sam is Dead, awarded a Newberry Medal by the American Library Association.
Longtime UConn Professor Edmund Wehrle passed away on September 20, 2019. His obituary can be found here and a reflection from Frank Costigliola follows below.
We are sad to announce the passing of Ed Wehrle, a pillar of the UConn History Department for many years. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Ed taught international history, focusing on European imperialism in Asia. His first book, on Britain, China, and the anti-missionary protests of 1891-1900, was based on the archives of the British Foreign Office and those of missionary societies. His second book, on the Great Powers in Asia, was sweeping in its coverage and critical in perspective. He was working on a detailed, deeply researched study of the Marshall mission to China after World War II.
Ed is remembered by former graduate students as someone whose love of teaching and of his students was infectious. His excitement with learning and historical inquiry made him an invaluable presence and an influential role model. Thought-provoking and super enthusiastic, he was a truly terrific human being with a great sense of humor and recognition of the absurdities of life. He helped establish the Foreign Policy Seminar and remained a loyal supporter for many years, even after his retirement in 1997. Ed was loyal, caring, and devoted to his friends, students, colleagues, and family — a real stand-up guy right to the end.
Longtime UConn Professor Marvin Cox passed away on May 1, 2020. His formal obituary is here and a remembrance by Lawrence Langer follows below.
Marvin Cox was one of the stalwarts of the History Department who helped propel the Department as a center of excellence. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale (B.A. 1957, M.A. 1959, Ph.D. 1966) and arrived at Storrs in 1966, after having taught for three years as an instructor at the University of Rhode Island. For thirty-seven years Marvin taught modern French History at Storrs with a dedication towards his students and scholarship.
At Yale he completed his dissertation on The Legitimists under the Second French Republic and at Storrs he presented seminars on the French Revolution. He was particularly interested in the historiography of the Revolution and in a pre-Marxist understanding of the Bourgeois Revolution. To that end he immersed himself in a study of Alexis de Tocqueville and in a critique of current French scholarship, such as the important work by François Furet. In 1998, he published The Place of the French Revolution in History (Houghton Mifflin) and continued to present papers and write articles on the interpretations of the Revolution.
It has been one of my singular pleasures to know Marvin as a colleague and friend. We worked together on two grants from the National Endowment of the Humanities to fashion a model course in Western Civilization for both high school and college students as well as a grant from the Connecticut Department of Education on a course in world history. We presented seminars that brought together high school teachers and UConn faculty in a series of seminars in which a number of historical themes were discussed. Some of the most stimulating and intellectually exciting exchanges that I have had occurred when Marvin and I would spend a day going through various topics of Western Civilization.
For a number of years Marvin directed the Co-op program with high school teachers of history, where he dedicated himself toward maintaining a close working relationship between the high schools and UConn. He was also a co-director in 1996-97 of the Center for European Studies at Storrs.
In retirement, Marvin enjoyed traveling to France, visiting New York where he, his wife Diane, and daughter Katie often took in a concert or opera, or vacationing on Sanibel Island. My wife and I spent a wonderful two weeks with Marvin and Diane in southern France where we ate well and thoroughly enjoyed our visits to museums or taking simple walks. For many years Marvin liked to hike, often with Katie. Marvin participated in the formative years of the AAUP at UConn and he was also an active member of the Democratic Party in Chaplin, where the Coxes lived for many years. I will miss our conversations, our dining out, our laughter, our good cheer.
UConn’s Department of History learned two of its students recently received impressive awards.
First, PhD student Nicole Breault received the John Tanaka Graduate Student Fellowship from the UConn Chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Nicole is on leave this year because of another award, a 2020-2021 Draper Dissertation Fellowship from UConn’s Humanities Institute.
Second, our own undergraduate honors student, Lisette Donewald, was declared co-winner of the Judge Peter Zerella Scholarship of the Connecticut Supreme Court Society.
Congratulations to both Nicole and Lisette! You make everyone in Wood Hall proud.
In recent years, and especially this summer, debate is spreading about what to do with monuments – whether statues, memorials, or obelisks – that commemorate white superiority. As society changes, and the values of those societies shift, what is to become of monuments that have, in one word, “expired?”
Connecticut State Historian and Associate Professor Walter Woodward, in a co-authored essay with UConn Neag School of Education Professor Alan Marcus, have a fascinating new article in The Conversation examining the debate over “expired” monuments and what to do with them.
To read this engaging and timely piece, click here. If you like the essay, please consider sharing it.
In August the United States reached another grim milestone: over 170,000 deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic. But unlike other national tragedies, there has been little collective mourning among Americans. Why is that? Why is this time different? To better understand why national grieving is important, CNN contributor Ray Sanchez spoke with Professor Micki McElya. On August 16, Sanchez published the article, “Few signs of collective mourning as the US tops 170,000 coronavirus deaths,” on the CNN website. Professor McElya, author of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, is the ideal scholar to discuss matters of collective grief and how US political leaders have marshalled national mourning during previous tragedies.
Describing the country’s lack of collective mourning, Professor McElya eloquently states in the CNN article: “We need to really consider this and talk about this as a collective national failure. One certainly encouraged by our leadership. But people have to submit or commit to that narrative, and so many have, and that’s an enormous sadness.”
We are saddened to share that earlier this month Roger Buckley, a wonderful Professor of History and colleague at UConn since 1984, passed away. In addition to serving as a member of the History Department, Buckley led the UConn Center for Academic Programs and served as the founding Director of the Asian American Studies Institute in 1993.
The current Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute (AAASI), Professor Jason Oliver Chang, wrote a beautiful tribute to Professor Buckley in UConn Today. Chang writes that Buckley’s “combination of humor, kindness, and the tireless work to lift up creative, intellectual, and scholarly work rooted in the conviction and courage to right wrongs was a defining quality that many will remember and miss.”
Professor Manisha Sinha‘s op-ed, “Why Kamala Harris Matters to Me,” surged onto The New York Times website on Wednesday, August 12. In her reflective piece, Sinha calls Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential running mate as a “personal gift.” The op-ed provides a stirring glimpse at Harris’ Indian and Black heritage. In addition to Harris being only the second Black woman to be elected to the US Senate, she also is one of the most prominent politicians of Indian descent.
To read Professor Sinha’s reaction to Harris’ appointment, please click here.
As the national discussion over the removal of divisive Confederate monuments continues, Professor Micki McElya’s work on the Arlington Cemetery and its untold history features prominently. On July 5th, Ian Shapira published an article, titled “At Arlington Cemetery, a Confederate monument to the South and slavery still stands,” in the Washington Post. The article cites McElya’s support for the removal of Confederate monuments, particularly the Confederate Memorial in Arlington Cemetery and her suggestion that “panels that chronicle Section 16′s origins and explain the monument’s celebration of white supremacy” be constructed in its place.
The article draws from both of McElya’s books – the 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery and Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth-Century America.
On July 6th, Connecticut State Historian and Associate Professor Walter Woodward chatted with NPR’s Where We Live CT to discuss all things related to the Nutmeg State. Following the May 2020 release of his new book, Creating Connecticut: Critical Moments That Shaped a Great State, Woodward shares a wide-range of interesting CT history – covering the origins of the Pequot War, Connecticut’s long history of immigration, and even the recipe for the Connecticut Election Cake.
To listen to the interview, please click here.