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Congratulations to Carol Reardon!

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Congratulations to Carol Reardon!

After twenty-six years at Penn State, Carol Reardon retired at the end of June. The George Winfree Professor of American History, she has been one of the most highly regarded practitioners of U.S. military history in the nation and an important scholar-in-residence of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.

Carol joined Penn State as an assistant professor in 1991. By 2010, she was appointed the Winfree Professor in recognition of her contributions to scholarship, to Penn State, and to the military profession.           

During her career she published a number of fine books, all of them providing insight into various aspects of military operations, military philosophy, and the intersection of war and society. For the Civil War, her book on Pickett’s Charge in Memory and History (1997) captivated readers in her analysis of the difference between perceptions and historical knowledge of an event. It was extremely popular and underwent multiple printings by the University of North Carolina Press. She also wrote a very engaging book in the Brose Lecture/Book Series, With a Sword in One Hand & Jomini in the Other (2012), in which she expanded our knowledge of the contributors to military thinking and demonstrated the wear and tear of continuous operations on common soldiers.            

Lately, she has set a new standard for producing battlefield guides. Together with co-author Tom Vossler, she has opened fresh insight into the battles of Gettysburg and Antietam, and shared some of these findings with participants on the Richards Center Executive Tour.           

She also provided important and significant service to the historical profession, serving a stint as the first woman named President of the Society for Military History.           

Also distinguishing Carol’s career was her dedication to reaching out beyond the academy, sharing her hard-earned knowledge with the military and the public. For the former, she served important posts as visiting professor at both the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She also became famous for her staff rides of battlefields that showed military personnel how they could apply lessons in leadership from the past to contemporary situations. And she has been in high demand to give public talks, with her talents amply demonstrated during her year as the Penn State Laureate. 

“Carol has been an extremely important person in the history of the Richards Center,” said Director Bill Blair. “Her presence provided the cache´ that we were not only a serious center for scholarly research, but also a disseminator of that knowledge to the public. Her expertise in military history and her capacity to engage with the public have been unsurpassed. She will be greatly missed even as we wish her all the best on her transition.”

                                                                                                                                                                             

Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

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Richards Center Hosts Second Annual Undergraduate Mentoring Program

From June 25-30, the Richards Center hosted its second annual Emerging Scholars Undergraduate Mentoring Program. The program is designed to increase interest in Penn State’s graduate History program among students from historically underrepresented backgrounds and especially to expose them to Penn State’s unique dual degree programs in History and African American Studies and History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Twenty-three students applied for the program, and the 10 students who were accepted came from eight different states and the territory of Puerto Rico. They represented a variety of institutions, including Mississippi State, the University of Illinois-Chicago, the University of Arizona, Florida A & M (the only historically black institution in the Florida state university system), and the University of Puerto Rico, among others. During the week-long program they took part in panel discussions with current Penn State faculty and graduate students on such topics as writing compelling admissions statements, choosing a graduate program, and developing a successful research project. They also participated in a simulated doctoral seminar that introduced them to the practice of history at the graduate level. In their post-workshop survey, students praised the program. One commented that "the program more than met my expectations. It really helped to demystify grad school for me," while another student told us, "I can't wait to bring information about this program back to my university and encourage other students to apply."

When the program was launched in 2016, Crystal Sanders, Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African American Studies and one of the summer initiative coordinators, remarked that the Richards Center's program will not only diversify Penn State, but also, the academy: “The center's commitment to increasing the number of PhDs from underrepresented minority groups is exciting and commendable. Diversity among both students and faculty in the classroom fosters excellence and ensures that higher education reflects the demographics of our world.” The undergraduate mentoring curriculum already is bearing fruit. One of the participants in last year's inaugural event will enroll in the History department's PhD program in August.

Karen Younger

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Karen Younger

Karen Younger is Assistant Professor of History and Chairperson of the Department of Humanities at Waynesburg University. She earned her PhD in 2006, under the direction of Dr. Lori Ginzberg. When asked how the Richards Civil War Era Center impacted her academic and professional career, Younger responded with glowing praise. Her experience can be read below, in her own words:

“My five years in the Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University not only made me a better historian, but also prepared me in unanticipated ways for my career.  Workshops with gifted classmates, and professors who were nothing short of brilliant, challenged me to think broadly and deeply. Teaching history courses to talented undergraduate students, played a central role in developing my passion for teaching.  My work at the Center challenged me to develop skills I didn’t know I had, which have proved vital to my career; namely, the ability to plan, to imagine, to administrate, to communicate, and to engage.

The collegial yet rigorous environment at the Center, enabled me to build a successful and rewarding career at a small liberal arts university. In my current role as Chairperson of the Humanities Department and Assistant Professor of History at Waynesburg University, I work with students, with faculty, and with administration, and I draw every day on the skills I developed during my time at the Center. My years at the Center were a wonderful time in my life, and the best educational and professional experience I could have asked for.”

Jon White

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Jon White

I can say without any hesitation that I would not be where I am today without the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center.  The Center’s faculty—especially Bill Blair and Mark Neely—were mentors to me throughout my undergraduate career, and they have continued to be wonderful friends since.  In fact, I began my book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln as an independent study with Mark when I was a senior at Penn State.  I didn’t know at the time that he had been planning to write something about the soldier vote of 1864, but instead he graciously gave the topic to me.  When my book came out last year I was thrilled to be able to dedicate it to him.

The Richards Center helped me develop professionally in other ways as well.  For example, after my sophomore year, the Center funded a summer research fellowship that enabled me to work at two Civil War-related historic sites in the Philadelphia area—the Camp William Penn Museum and Pennypacker Mills.  Having these experiences helped me prepare me for the public history world in the future.  When I was in graduate school I worked as an intern in the Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington, D.C., and my first job out of graduate school was working as an assistant historian in that office.

Now I am a tenured professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Virginia.  I have written or edited 6 books and about 70 articles, essays and reviews.  I am currently finishing up three book projects:  a history of sleep and dreams during the Civil War (forthcoming with UNC Press), a collection of African American correspondence with Abraham Lincoln (to be submitted to Southern Illinois University Press later this month), and a co-authored history of the USS Monitor (under review with Kent State University Press).  After I finish these three books I will turn my attention to a history of the slave trade during the Civil War.

Bill Blair has done such a wonderful job in building the Richards Center into one of the premier academic centers in the country.  This year one of my top students is applying to Penn State for graduate school in Civil War history.  I know that if she attends Penn State she will receive a rigorous education and a thorough grounding in the Civil War era.  The professors in the Richards Center are what really make the place—I would not have had the success I’ve had in my career without the selfless investments they made in me when I was a student.

A few other highlights from my career:  In October I was elected vice president of the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, I was invited to serve on the Board of Directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association, and I was invited to join the Advisory Council at Ford’s Theatre.

Timothy Wesley

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Timothy Wesley

My wife and I came to Penn State and the Richards Center in 2004.  We had heard horror stories about how isolating PhD programs can be, and thus came to State College with more than a bit of trepidation.  Thank goodness for the Richards Center!  Of course, the center was most essential to my success as a graduate student because of the generosity of its supporters.  I faithfully received funds for travel, conferences, books, whatever I needed...Bill Blair seemingly always found a way to match up the graduate student with the appropriate and available grant or scholarship.  But there was more to it than that.  The Richards Center became our home, and everyone involved with it became our family.   Bill, Matt Isham, and Barby Singer made a point of inviting grad students and donors to common events, making the graduate experience a little less daunting in the short term and brokering friendships that endure in the long.  

I have fortunately found success since leaving Penn State.  My first book, The Politics of Faith During the Civil War (LSU Press, 2013), was received well, and along with my training while with the Richards Center, helped me gain a tenure track position at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.  In addition to thinking about and planning my next book project, I have presented my subsequent work at national and regional conferences, reviewed numerous books for journals in our field, refereed manuscripts and article submissions for several presses and journals, and written (or am writing) several chapters in upcoming edited volumes on various aspects of Civil War history.  I believe wholeheartedly that none of these good things would have materialized without my affiliation with the Richards Civil War Era Center, the connections in the field it helped me make as a student, the support of its donors, and the mentorship of its Director.