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Christian Keller

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Christian Keller

Although the Richards Center was relatively new when I finished my Ph.D. in 2001, the professors who were instrumental in the early operations of the Center (Dr. Mark E. Neely and Dr. William Blair, especially) were also instrumental in my development as a professional historian.  Dr. Blair served on my comprehensive exam committee and offered numerous insights that I incorporated later in my dissertation; Dr. Neely became my dissertation advisor and, in many ways, taught me how to ask the right questions of the historical evidence I uncovered--a necessary skill for the historian's art.  Today, in my current research, writing, and teaching at the Army War College, I still remember to ask those key questions and try to pass them on to my own students.  For military professionals, history is useful for how it teaches them to think and question their preconceptions, all with an eye towards application in modern policy and strategy.  Ask the wrong questions, or taint the interpretation of the past with modern presentist agendas, and the value of history to the national security practitioner is lost.

My students and I owe a great deal to the superb professional historical education I received at Penn State.  Without the superb mentorship of professors like Mark Neely, Gary Gallagher, Carol Reardon, Bill Blair, and (the late) William Pencak, I would most assuredly not be teaching America's future strategic leaders today.  Penn State remains one of the country's premier locations for graduate work in history, especially 19th Century America, and I recommend the department and the Richards Center unhesitatingly.