Department Celebrates the Opening of its New Office Space

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The Department of History hosted an Open House for members of the Rhodes community on October 11. The new offices, a result of the College’s long term academic space plan, are on the second floor of Buckman Hall.

Below are the remarks delivered by Prof. Tim Huebner at this occasion:

“Welcome! It is great to be in this new space today. I want to extend a special welcome to President Troutt and Dean Drompp. Thank you for being here for this celebration.

As a historian, I cannot resist the temptation to talk a little bit about the history of History at Rhodes – to shed a bit of light on how we got here.

History was one of the few subjects taught at the College from its inception in 1848 in Clarksville. When the College moved to Memphis in 1925, the College as a whole had only a half dozen faculty, including a newly hired historian, John Henry Davis. There were no academic departments at the time, but for the next several decades Davis, whose portrait hangs in this room, made his mark on the College. Not only did he found the Man program (later renamed the Search for Values program) and serve as the first president of the British Studies at Oxford program, but he also made History a centerpiece of the College’s liberal arts curriculum. Davis served as a faculty member from 1926 to 1969, witnessing the College’s transformation from Southwestern Presbyterian University to Southwestern at Memphis. Most importantly for us in this room, he hired Prof. Douglas Hatfield.

The College’s archivist Elizabeth Gates tells me that there were no official department chairs till the late 1960s, and Doug was the first chair of the Department of History. (By the way, if there were no department chairs, would it make life harder or easier for the Dean?) I must point out that five former chairs of the Department are all in this room today. Doug Hatfield served in that role from 1970 to 1979. Jim Lanier served as chair between 1979 and 1994. Michael Drompp was chair between 1994 and 2002. And Lynn Zastoupil between 2002 and 2005. Gail Murray was the first woman to serve as chair, and her term of service was from 2005 to 2009. Each put his or her own stamp on the Department, but the big picture is that the Department became larger, more diverse, and more international in its course offerings and areas of specialization.

Through all of these changes, the department faculty never had their offices in one place. John Henry Davis had an office in Palmer Hall, but other faculty – including Doug and Jim – first had offices in Stewart Hall, now a dormitory. Not until 1970 did the Department gain an official home on the fourth floor of Clough Hall. It moved to the third floor when the Adult Education Center, now the Meeman Center, vacated the third floor to move to Dorothy King Hall. But even then all history faculty were not all together in one place. I have heard Michael Drompp, hired in 1989, speak of his first office as being in King Hall. As recently as last year, most of us were in Clough, while two department members were in Buckman.

Our quarters in Clough served us well and for a long time, but the space was – well, let’s just say, historic, vintage 1970s – and it is nice to be in newer digs where we can all be, for the first time, in one place.

I would like to thank President Troutt for initiating the academic space planning process years ago, and Deans Michael Drompp and John Olsen, Brian Foshee, Tracy Adkisson, John Rone, and Alan Boone for their help along the way as we have moved and gotten settled in our new space. Finally, I must recognize our departmental assistant Nannette Gills, who kept me and the rest of us sane during the move and as we have gotten settled. Thanks.

Welcome again and enjoy the celebration.”