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Department of History
Faculty Memories

History Department alumni are invited to submit their memories of the faculty which will be added to those below.  Please send any memories you'd like to share to m.pierce@rochester.edu.

From Carol Adams:
I read with interest the interview with you that was linked to in today’s email from the UR History Dept.
I went to the U of R, 1968-1972, and was an English-History major.
My father went to the U of R, 1939-1943, and was a History major.
He told me about going to Dexter Perkins’ house for history seminars, and how the maid there would serve them tea, or a meal. (And that everyone assumed the Perkins’ could afford her because of the Fannie Farmer cookbook money.)
He also said that, after his father died when he was a sophomore at the U of R, Dr. May assumed the role of interim father and was so kind to him.
Of my many memories of history professors, the one that stands out is a call I received from Professor Zagorin in late April 1972. I had been a student in his honors class on “Revolutions.” He was very upset, and called to ask what the students were going to do in response to the increased bombing the United States was doing in Vietnam. (I have my calendar, still, and may be able to pinpoint the date.) So, we agreed to convene a meeting of some students and faculty. It was held in the history department’s seminar room in Rush Rhees. I remember that sitting across from me were Professors Genovese, Lasch, and Zagorin. I can’t remember what other faculty were there. But it is this moment I remember: Professor Zagorin was very upset talking about the US government and Nixon and what they were doing, and I remember how Professor Lasch gently reached out a hand and rested it on Zagorin’s shoulder.
I felt he was trying to rein in Professor Zagorin’s excitement, but it also felt like an intimate gesture among friends.
We ended up doing a March. (The Campus Times probably captures the public aspects of this, but what I remember is that moment when Christopher Lasch reached to touch Mr. Zagorin.)
Earlier that semester, Mr. Zagorin suggested I become a union organizer as he had been early in his life, because of my energy.
For my paper for the honors course, I had addressed the question of women revolutionaries and whether they could be accepted/succeed in revolutionary situations, and I examined the lives of Rosa Luxembourg and Emma Goldman. We held the discussions of the papers at his house, and he and his wife greeted me at the door and they both were over the moon in response, not to my paper (probably 50% inadequate intellectual history and 50% feminist rage), but to the poem I had typed on the cover:
I’m sorry I didn’t stay in touch with him after graduation because he was so kind and encouraging. And perhaps I should have sent him my own radical work, The Sexual Politics of Meat.
Oh well, I am grateful for the memories I have!

From Bob Kirschbaum '70:
I read about your History Department history project in the recent department newsletter.  At the end of your interview you expressed a desire to learn more about: "....stories about dancing around a maypole in Mendon Ponds Park, sightings of faculty in scandalous locations, and perhaps even some rumors of recreational drug use back in those wild days."  Having been a student at the U of R from 1966 to 1970, and a history major from 1968 on -- in what I presume were "those wild days" -- I was wondering if you'd like to have one of your students interview Richard Cashman?  I practically majored in Cashman -- he taught South Asian history (I also took courses in American History ("recent -- for the late 'lunch 60's -- and Post Civl War American intellectual history) as well as Crozier's East Asian history.  I also formed a friendship with Richard -- I bartended at one or two of his faculty parties, invited him to at least one party in the summer of 1969 hosted by a then-recently graduated student who became his first wife, and attended their wedding in the park (perhaps the origin of the dancing around a maypole story).  At one point a few of us introduced Richard to marijuana, after which the formerly-formal suit, tie and briefcase young professor started dressing in jeans, kurtas and sandals; and renamed his South Asian Intellectual History class, "Indian Mysticism." He was a great teacher; I learned a lot from him that came in handy later.  Though I am now a visual artist, I can trace my success in landing a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award for Research in India in 1996-97 to my classes with him, and with Diran Dohanian, an art history professor.  I did manage to contact Richard prior to my departure for India, found him teaching in his native Australia, where he shifted his attention to sports history.  I remained in contact with his ex-wife until her death a few years ago; she was living in New York City not far from where I had a loft.  We only spoke of Richard once or twice -- we bumped into each other on the street in the late '70's or early '80's -- and her life with Richard in Australia.  I'm guessing she didn't like being a faculty wife.  Anyway, spurred on by your project, I found a faculty profile page for him at University of Technology in Sydney: https://profiles.uts.edu.au/Richard.Cashman 
I think it is current; at least I hope it is current.  Anyway, if someone does interview him, please be discreet, and please be careful about what gets put on the website.  You might describe Richard's wedding (to Carol Novack) as perhaps a "hippy" wedding.  It was, indeed, lot's of fun

From Danny Walkowitz:
Please move on beyond names and air conditioning.  1968 protest vs Dow Chemical led to 18 grad students suspended.  History faculty leads fight for them.  Later deep divisions between Genovese and Gutman, etc. etc.

Arthur remained a friend for several decades, hosting me and my wife (prof Judith Walkowitz) when we spoke in Amsterdam on several occasions.  What the obit neglects to mention is that Arthur was a friend (and student) of Herbert Marcuse and on a couple of occasions brought him to campus for memorable debate/discussions with N.O Brown on cultural v political radicalism.

Also forgotten (or ignored — in a reminder of the politics of memory seemingly infecting the UR), Arthur was effectively fired (denied tenure) for his participation in the sit-in against Dow Chemical recruitment on campus (they made napalm) in the fall of 1967.  33 graduate students (18 in History) participated and were summarily suspended, placing them in jeopardy of the draft.  The faculty (led by historians Haydn White, Loren Baritz, Herb Gutman, R.J Kaufman, Cherniofsky, and others, protested and got the suspensions revoked (to probation).  Arthur was not protected.

I organized SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] at Rochester as an undergraduate.  I was also a freedom rider (on a less well known trip through Maryland’s Eastern Shore).  I was an English undergrad at the UR recruited to stay for the History Ph.D by Baritz.  I believe I was then (‘64) the only undergraduate allowed to stay for the PhD, and they was because I had not been a history major.  My wife and I married in ‘65 and she graduated from the UR in ‘67.  She was allowed to stay for the PhD though she was a coup for the department as she graduated first in her class.

Eugene L. Mascoli (BA '58):
"Dr. John Christopher. Dr. Christopher taught a freshman World History course I attended in 1954-55. He would enter the lecture hall, dressed in a suit and tie, and write a few topics on the blackboard. He would then sit on a table facing the students, and give the most beautiful, informative lecture on history. He would repeat this pattern lecture after lecture, and do them all without any notes! Wonderful! When it was time for us to write a term paper, we had to present the topic to him for his approval. I asked Dr. Christopher (in 1954) if I could do a paper on 'The Attack on Pearl Harbor' (1941). His response was 'no, that's a hot potato, pick something else.' I wondered for years about what did Dr. Christopher know about the Pearl Harbor attack that made it a 'hot potato.'"

Mike Schneider (BA '59):
"It's a close race involving Richard C ('Jake') Wade, Harry Benda and Charles Vevier. Wade engaged our seminar as no one else could in the study of American political and social history.  Benda explored with us modern China and the Maoist experiment, a pressing concern in the 50s. Vevier's theory of 'American Continentalism' (manifest destiny+) was the most influential for my career in US diplomacy since he provided an enduring explanation of the domestic/ideological influences on US statecraft."

John Baker (BA '61):
"Arthur J. May, 1960-61; European History -- 'Europe since 1870' and 'Europe since 1914' were the two courses in particular that were popular with history majors at that time.  He made the subject matter interesting."

Michael A. Weight (BA '61):
"Arthur May."

Fred Holbrook (BA '61):
"Dr. Arthur May. In 1958 Dr. May began a Monday morning class by asking Fred Conrad '60, 'Is it true that in unity there is strength except in Schenectady?' I don't remember Conrad's answer or comment but the background is that the class had been discussing the ausgleich (union) between the Habsburg (Austrian) Empire and Hungary in 1867 and the previous Saturday the UR Football team (with Conrad as a starting player), on its way to an undefeated season, had defeated Union College, 42-0, in Schenectady."

Michael S. Speziale (BA '62):
"Dr. Arthur May—a truly towering figure who struck awe and fear into his undergraduate charges but who also inspired us to do our very best."

Anonymous (BA '62):
"Richard Wade. I took all his history classes. Dr. Wade’s classes were fun as well as informative.  When John F. Kennedy was elected, he left UR to serve as one of his advisors."

Allan (BA '64):
"Mason Wade and Edward Towle. They personified two very different approaches to handling history, and I have embraced them both. Dr. Wade reported every detail without judging, Dr. Towle drew inferences and saw patterns."

Steven J. Wohl (BA '66):
"Bernard Weisberger. Prof. Weisberger was not just a fine historian and teacher but someone who related to his students in a thoroughly down-to-earth manner—as equals in a quest for knowledge through the mutually respected exchange of ideas. In the fall semester of 1965 I took an Honors Program seminar with Prof. Weisberger on the Civil War (thus commencing my lifelong interest in that subject). Prof. Weisberger hosted the seminar at his home, which provided many delightful late- afternoon changes of the usual on-campus venue. On Tuesday, November 9, 1965, at around 4pm, the day's class ended, I and several other seminar participants piled into the Chevy Impala I’d borrowed from a good friend and we headed back to the Towers dorm. Only 5 minutes or so into our trip,  cruising down the steep hill near Prof. Weisberger's home, we were startled to see all of the lights in the City and the U of R campus darken. The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965–13 hours' worth—had struck! P.S. HBD in advance to Prof. Weisberger, who I've learned (through my 'historical research') will turn 100 this coming August 15, 2022."

Howard Raab (BA '68):
"Hayden White. During one of his scintillating lectures in European Intellectual History, he made a move to walk off the stage, asking the class if we thought he could walk on air!"

Anonymous (BA '68):
"Loren Baritz. I elected a course titled American Intellectual History in my freshman year. I had no idea what that was. Professor Baritz had joined the faculty a few years earlier as part of a diaspora from Wesleyan. Others who arrived around that time we RJ Kaufman, Hayden White, and NO Brown. I had graduated from a small unexceptional high school in suburban New York. These teachers were brilliant and inspiring. They drew away the provincial curtain of my previous education and opened my young eyes to the world of ideas and the force of ideas in driving history. I went on to graduate school in American history at Harvard, and no one there with the exception of Bernard Bailyn came close to my U of R teachers."

Lynne Spichiger (BA '69):
"Loren Baritz. After listening to his eye-opening lectures in American Intellectual History for many months, I felt compelled one afternoon to go to his office. I told him that I would never be the same again because I viewed the world and the USA differently. I had come if age and he had changed me. Preconceptions had been worn away and I would never forget his lecture on Marilyn Monroe titled 'The Birds of Paradise.'  I do not remember his reaction, but I certainly remember feeling like I was experiencing epiphany after epiphany, and it was a bit unsettling."

Hans Kellner (PhD '72):
Hayden White. I knew Hayden for 50 years and he and Margaret became good friends of Ruth and me. Whether at home in Santa Cruz, or on our encounters in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Rome (especially), Venice, Berlin, Oslo, and elsewhere, he could always enliven things, making the dreariest conference session worthwhile just by attending because he always 'did his homework' and stayed until the last paper was read. I particularly remember his compliments as a commentator to a Brazilian graduate student for the passion with which he delivered his paper, although Hayden noted he didn't know a word of Portuguese.   Always controversial, Hayden stirred passions, and I recall a moment in Oslo when Hayden and Wolfgang Mommsen ('He think he owns history...' Hayden once remarked) seemed about to come to blows in front of a packed auditorium. Both men, I think, were over 70. A few years later in Venice, I saw him confront a tough guy who was mistreating a young woman. Hayden was fearless. Hayden came to Rochester as a young medievalist and in a few years was department chair. He was proud of the transformation of a very traditional department (with no Jews, he noted) through his hires—Milton Berman, Michael Cherniavsky, Sidney Monas, Perez Zagorin, Loren Baritz, Arthur Mitzman. He is a big chapter in the history of the History Department."

James Oberly (MA '77, PhD '82):
"Co-influencers (and maybe not coincidentally, my co-dissertation directors): Mary Young, who gently but firmly took apart my overwrought writing of a seminar paper in my first term at Rochester.  She helped me to write in a direct and clear fashion about change over time, what she called the central task of the historian. And Stan Engerman, who in another first term seminar had us read an article by Robert Fogel, 'The Specification Problem in Economic History.' Stan’s elucidation of that article taught me to think about the importance of defining terms, posing verifiable hypotheses about the past, how to think in counterfactual terms, and of drawing conclusions based on the evidence."

Melinda (Birnbaum) Lyons (BA '79):
"Brenda Meehan. The Iranian revolution was happening when I took the Russian revolution course, which gave us a front-row seat to Communist vs. religious factions competing for supremacy. I remember fondly the evening sessions at her house, with the samovar heating tea."

Ron Meyers (BA '84):
"John J. Waters, Jr."

Matthew T. Kaplan, Esq. (BA '86):
"Really a toss-up between Christopher Lasch and Eugene Genovese. As I remember they didn't particularly get along but they both were intrigued by the topic of my senior thesis, 'The Bible as a Basis for Pro-Slavery Thought in the Antebellum South.'"

Adam Konowe (BA '90):
"Profs. Kaeuper and Weaver; the former was instrumental in making history one of my two majors, while the latter took my Anglophilia to a whole new level. Both brought their own creativity to the classroom. For Prof. Kaeuper, it was often humorous Monty Python references to medieval history, while Prof. Weaver brought a literary and dramatic aspect with readings like John Osborne's Look Back in Anger as allegory for life in post-war Britain."

Kathryn Slocum (BA '01):
"Stewart Weaver, hands down. I appreciated all the faculty but Prof. Weaver is almost singlehandedly responsible for my lifetime of continued study in the history WWI, modern Britain, Ireland, and India--as well as the travel I have enjoyed to those places. His lectures were so engaging. It was clear that he was feeling the history—not merely knowing and retelling it. It was contagious. I took every course he offered after I was introduced to him and thereby expanded the breadth of my degree into subjects I may not have otherwise explored. I feel more literate as a result of his efforts and example. I've had many years of formal education after my undergraduate time at UR and still Professor Weaver stands out like a nearer star."

Kaight Conheady (BA '15):
"Robert Westbrook was the first history professor that I had at Rochester - I was a freshman in a 200-Level course. He was also the first professor whose office hours I ever visited. I was terrified. I had taken a gap year and was specifically afraid of my writing skills not being up to par. Professor Westbrook worked with me and allowed me to revise my writing in order to make sure that it was up to college standards. He allowed me to submit drafts in order to ensure that I understood the goal of the assignment and read each one of them. He was kind and patient and gave detailed and useful feedback, which I was then able to implement into all future writing assignments throughout college. Professor Westbrook remained someone whose door was always open to me, regardless of the fact that I hadn't taken future courses with him. He gave me life advice, as well as writing advice, whenever I asked for it, despite not being required to. He even helped me choose between taking a Fulbright to Germany and a different scholarship in Austria. His kindness and patience with me also lessened my fear of professors in general, allowing me to seek help from other professors when it was needed. I am eternally grateful that Professor Westbrook was the first professor that I got to know and it helped me feel like someone always had my back, no matter what! I also want to give a special shoutout to John Portlock, who was a PhD student that graduated in 2019. John was my TA in 2012 (in Celia Applegate's course on Western Civilization) and also gave me invaluable writing support throughout my career. He even read my full undergraduate thesis and gave me detailed, line-by-line feedback, even though we had not seen each other in three years!! Now that I am a teacher, I really understand the time and effort that that must have taken. The energy that John dedicated to helping me, despite being in the middle of his own thesis, is something I'll never forget."

Please send any memories you'd like to share to m.pierce@rochester.edu.

© 2021 Morris A. Pierce