A Letter From the Chair

Author: Patrick Griffin

Patrick Griffin

I am delighted to have been named chair of the Department of History at Notre Dame. That said, I have some big shoes to fill: Both my predecessors—John McGreevy, current dean of the ND College of Arts and Letters, and Tom Noble, former director of the Medieval Institute—did admirable jobs in leading the department.

These are exciting times for us. Our most recent class of graduating seniors not only wrote fascinating honors theses on a broad range of topics but also graduated to some impressive jobs in, among other things, business consulting, corporate finance, and public history. We have placed our students in some of the top law schools, medical schools, and graduate schools of business as well as some of the leading graduate training programs in history, such as those at University of Virginia and University of Wisconsin. Other recent graduates are also pursuing service opportunities with the Alliance for Catholic Education and Teach for America.

The success of these young men and women is impressive but not surprising. Our rigorous course of study prepares them to think analytically and imagine conceptually, to write well, and to argue persuasively. Our history program stands at the center of a university that prides itself on a tradition of liberal education.

Our graduate program is flourishing as well. Among the recent highlights:

  • Heath Carter won a major fellowship for research on labor in turn-of-the-century Chicago and published an award-winning article in a first-rate journal—no mean feat for even a more senior scholar;
  • Josh Kercsmar, a graduate student focusing on early American intellectual, religious, and environmental history, presented at the annual meeting of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts—a real distinction of note in this field; and 
  • Andrea Turpin, who just defended a dissertation exploring gender and secularization at American universities, accepted a tenure-track position at Baylor.

The health of both our graduate and undergraduate programs, of course, reflects the vitality of our faculty.

Fr. Robert Sullivan has been promoted to full professor, in part on the merits of his well-reviewed study on Macaulay.

Dan Graff, our director of undergraduate studies, was awarded major teaching and research awards this year. Tom Noble had by anyone’s estimation an annus mirabilis. He was awarded the College of Arts and Letters’ preeminent teaching prize, won the major book award for medieval history, published a new book, and was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. (Notre Dame, I hasten to add, leads the nation in garnering NEH grants—and, we can say immodestly, history has won more than any other department on campus.) As you read this newsletter, be sure to check out the accomplishments of Gail Bederman, John Van Engen, and Felipe Fernández-Armesto, and the many recent books by our faculty.

Finally, I am also pleased to welcome two new colleagues: Rebecca McKenna and Paul Ocobock.

The continuing quality of our program shows in the most recent National Research Council rankings. Our history department is now regarded as a Top 20 program—and has made more gains than any other department at Notre Dame. We have much of which to be proud.

If you are on campus, I encourage you to stop in for a visit. We are grateful for your interest and support—as we also have much more still to do.

Patrick Griffin

Madden-Hennebry Professor of History
Chair, Department of History