Friday, May 5, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
First Fire and Fortitude: The U.S. Army in the Pacific War, 1941-1943, then Island Infernos: The U.S. Army’s Pacific War Odyssey, 1944, and now To The End of the Earth: The U.S. Army and the Downfall of Japan, 1945, which was just released this week as the final book of a trilogy authored by Dr. John McManus, a member of the faculty of our history and political science department. McManus’ latest in his series on World War II in the Pacific theater is already attracting media attention from National Public Radio, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and C-SPAN, which plans to feature it in an upcoming episode of “Book TV.”
Reading the first two volumes for me was a reminder of the remarkable courage and selfless acts of sacrifice performed by the greatest generation and their patriotism, commitment to family and to American ideals. Thanks to McManus and his hair-raising accounts of battlefields, the men and women of the greatest generation loom larger than life, and for good reason.
McManus and his colleagues in our history and political science department are some of the most prolific and widely published scholars in our entire university. Some of the most recent work of our history and political science faculty include Dr. Petra DeWitt’s latest book, The Missouri Home Guard: Protecting the Home Front during the Great War, which examines the Missouri Home Guard’s role during World War I, and Dr. Kathleen Sheppard’s Tea on the Terrace: Hotels and Egyptologists’ Social Networks, 1885-1925, which looks at how communities emerged among travelers during the height of exploration of Egypt’s pyramids and ruins. Dr. Sheppard also edited The Correspondence of John Tyndall, Volume 12. Coming this fall, and I can’t wait, is Dr. Larry Gragg’s Bugsy’s Shadow: Moe Sedway, “Bugsy” Siegel, and the Birth of Organized Crime in Las Vegas, which promises to be a thriller of a different kind.
Not known to many who mainly view us as an “institute of technology,” our department of history and political science established its roots in the late 1800s and today, it offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in history, as well as a B.A. in history with a secondary education emphasis for students who want to become certified in the teaching of history. Our history graduates have gone on to become attorneys, military leaders, teachers, award-winning professors and museum curators, among other careers.
With a 4-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, S&T’s history and political science department provides our students the opportunity to work closely with professors on research projects. Our award-winning faculty include winners of the Gilder-Lehrman Prize for Military History, a Paris Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowships, grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Missouri Conference on History Book Award.
I bet you didn’t know that of the six S&T faculty to receive the Thomas Jefferson Award, three – the late Dr. Lawrence O. Christensen, Dr. Larry Gragg and Dr. Wayne Bledsoe – were historians. Gragg and Dr. Jack Ridley received the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching, and Sheppard received the President’s Award for Innovative Teaching. Christensen, Gragg, Ridley and Dr. Diana Ahmad were named Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professors, and in 2014 McManus became the first humanities faculty member to be named Curators’ Distinguished Professor.
Aside from countless technological innovations, discoveries and scientific breakthroughs that are the hallmarks of S&T, our faculty of history and political science have researched, taught and highlighted some of the world’s most historical teachable events. You see, in responses to my Friday messages that I receive from those who graduated recently or decades ago, our alumni regularly praise their history teachers, whose articulation of the events of yesteryear “encouraged me to become a student of history.” Some also give back to honor their faculty mentors.
After all, as President Harry Truman, Missouri’s own, famously said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history (we) do not know.” So, I say thank you to our historians, and all historians, for revealing the teachable events of the past since today, perhaps more than ever, we need to heed the advice of history, otherwise we will be “condemned to repeat it.”
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