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The Eberly College Magazine, Winter 2007

The Eberly College Magazine, Winter 2007

The

The Legacy of Lewis:History for the People, by the Peopleby Sarah BraswellDr. Ron LewisHistory is all about change. Studying the pasthelps us to change the future, and the eventsof each day change the course of our ownhistory, a little at a time.The hallowed halls ofWoodburn are not exempt from this change,though one might not immediately recognizeit.This change has occurred not so much inthe building’s physical appearance but in theideals of the people who inhabit it.Dr. Ronald L. Lewis has noticed the changes—in fact, he has been the driving force behindsome of them— and after 22 years at WVU,Dr. Lewis is retiring, leaving the Departmentof History in the hands of those who willcontinue to change the future and theDepartment.Dr. Lewis truly believes that teaching historyis an important service to the public, which issomething he says has not always been thecase in academia.“Faculty didn’t think thatcommunicating their expertise to the publicwas their responsibility,” he said.However, Lewis has striven to change thismentality through the founding of the Journalof Appalachian Studies and by serving aspresident of its parent organization, theAppalachian Studies Association, which washeadquartered at WVU from 1994-2001. Healso worked to revive the WVU Press and tobring West Virginia History to WVU.Theseefforts are important to WVU, says Lewis,because they give West Virginians a chance towrite their own history and to disseminatereal scholarship on Appalachia tocounter the pervasive stereotypicalwriting about the region. “Itdoesn’t matter what ‘they’ sayabout us,” Lewis said.“It’s what wesay about us.”The WVU Press, which movedfrom the WVU Library to theEberly College in 2000, has takenon a public education role bypublishing many works onAppalachia, particularly WestVirginia history and Appalachianmusic, fiction, and poetry. Lewis isthe editor of the “West Virginiaand Appalachia” series for thePress.“When I came here, what passed forAppalachian scholarship was truly astounding.Much of it was based on fiction. People whowere not from the region looked down onWest Virginia and Appalachia. Rather thanallow myself to be irritated, I decided to dosomething to turn negative to positive.Writing your own heritage is what a flagshipuniversity should be about,” Lewis said.He also worked to change West Virginiastereotypes through his history classes, wherehe often spent the first few weeks of classdeconstructing what had previously passed forWest Virginia history. He explained that thejournal and the Press serve the same purposefor West Virginia history as his classes do.“Research and teaching are inseparable;they’re just different aspects of the samelearning process.”While Lewis may be retiring, he knows thatthe Department will continue to focus onhistory as outreach.The newest member ofthe History Department, Dr. PeterCarmichael, feels just as strongly about thepublic service component of his job.“We arepartners with the people of West Virginia. It iskey for us to reach out to them, to bring outour knowledge and make it accessible,” hesaid.Carmichael is the Department’s first EberlyFamily Professor of Civil War Studies, aposition that requires him to focus on acombination of research, teaching, and service.He hopes to bring Civil War history to thepublic through giving talks and by placinggraduate students at historical sites andbattlefields. He also wants to coordinate withthe College’s Public History program to findways to integrate 19 th century history.“I can’t think of a better person for the job,”Lewis said of Carmichael.“The Civil War isone of the most prolific fields in history, butpeople don’t know about West Virginia andthe Civil War.This is an important positionand Pete knows both worlds— he cancommunicate specialized scholarship to thepublic in a way they can understand.”“Writing your own heritageis what a flagship universityshould be about.”Carmichael also recognizes the contributionsthat Lewis has made to the Department ofHistory.“Dr. Lewis has a way of quietleadership. He’s been positive, productive, andhas helped people with diverse interests cometogether to achieve goals. He has a way ofuniting people, and I hope we don’t lose sightof his style and approach,” Carmichael said.Though Lewis will no longer walk the halls ofWoodburn, he can rest assured that thosechanges he has started within theDepartment, the College and the Universitywill continue.With another renowned scholarcarrying the torch for American history andpublic outreach, it is certain that thesepositive transformations will continue formany years to come.Arts & Sciences | 8 | Fall 2007

Civil War StudiesThings are Coming Togetherby Rudolph P. Almasy, Ph.D., Associate Dean for DevelopmentIt all began when the Department of History identified theneed to strengthen the area of Civil War and Reconstructionstudies, particularly for its graduate program. All would agreethat this period in American history is tremendouslyfascinating and important to students, scholars, and citizens.The nation still feels the repercussions of this conflict nearly acentury and a half later. West Virginia, with its many culturaland historic associations with the Civil War, is uniquelypositioned to explore this field of study. What was needed wasa special professorship appointment, an individual who wouldhelp the department, the University, and the State prepare forthe 150th anniversary of the war in 2011, and the 150thanniversary of the creation of the State of West Virginia.The dean of the college, Mary Ellen Mazey, decided to createan Eberly Family Distinguished Professorship in Civil WarStudies from the continuing resources that resulted from thegifts given to the College through the Eberly Family CharitableTrust and the Eberly Foundation of Uniontown, PA. Thosegifts were given in the early 1990s, and their value asendowments to support teaching and research continues toincrease.It was not long afterwards that the Department of Historyand the Eberly College undertook a national search for animminent scholar and engaging teacher to serve as the firstEberly Family Civil War Professor. That search resulted in theappointment for Fall 2007 ofPeter Carmichael, author ofseveral books concerningsouthern history, includingLee’s Young Artillerist: WilliamR.J. Pegram and The LastGeneration: Young Virginians inPeace, War, and Reunion. As hecomes to WVU from theUniversity of North Carolinaat Greensboro, he is workingon Black Rebels, anexamination of slaves whoserved as Confederate soldiersand their relationships withtheir owners, a topic that hasDr. Peter Carmichaelremained unexplored.Dr. Carmichael pursued his graduate studies at thePennsylvania State University, and is delighted to return tothis area. “There is striking enthusiasm about WVU from thestudents, and the students have passion for what they arelearning,” Carmichael remarked. He feels that WVU offershim an opportunity to bring scholarship and service not onlyto his students but also to the community.Engaging that community is the next development in theongoing need to support Civil War Studies at WVU. Throughthe generosity of many, the Eberly College is working toendow a Civil War Studies Enrichment Fund to supportCarmichael and his students in the work of teaching,researching, and engaging Civil War enthusiasts throughoutthe State and the region. We thank you for your support todate. And for you Civil War buffs out there, whether reenactoror not, donations continue to be accepted to thisfund. Send donations to the WVU Foundation, PO Box 1650,Morgantown 26507-1650 with Civil War 2U146 written onthe memo line.Two special donors affiliated with J.S. Walker Realtors inMorgantown have stepped forward to establish a separateendowment in support of Civil War Studies. Steve Walker(BA ’71, MA ’73 History), a long-time resident ofMorgantown, and his spouse Laura (BS ’74, MS ’78 SocialWork) wanted to memorialize two of Mr. Walker’s WestVirginia ancestors who were brothers and who fought in theCivil War. This couple established the Wellington F. Morrisonand Sheldon C. Morrison Civil War Program EnhancementFund. The Eberly College salutes the support and generosityof Steve and Laura Walker and hopes their example willinspire others. For more information, please contactAssociate Dean Rudolph Almasy at ralmasy@mail.wvu.edu orcall 304-293-4611.Many needs remain as Peter Carmichael moves forward withestablishing a national reputation for Civil War Studies inWVU’s Department of History. Students are being recruited,especially graduate students, courses developed, field tripsplanned (one October 14 to nearby Antietam), and contactsare being made in the State and region. Those individualsinterested in learning more about Dr. Carmichael’s work canpost him at Peter.Carmichael@mail.wvu.edu.Please help us bring this effort to fruition. Learn what ishappening. Participate whenever possible. Share yourenthusiasm and knowledge. And consider supporting theprogram with your dollars.Arts & Sciences | 9 | Fall 2007

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