Historian Elliott West a Finalist for Baylor’s $215,000 Cherry Award for Great Teaching

History professor Elliott West is a finalist for the $215,000 Cherry Award for Great Teaching.
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History professor Elliott West is a finalist for the $215,000 Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – As one of three finalists for Baylor University’s 2010 Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, Professor Elliott West of the University of Arkansas's department of history will be giving a lecture on “The West Before Lewis and Clark: Three Lives” at 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in Giffels Auditorium, Old Main. The lecture will be followed by a reception and book signing at the University House from 5:15 to 6:30.

In his lecture, West will argue that too often we think of the history of the American West as beginning with Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition of 1804-1806. But, he points out, the "captains of discovery" were not setting history in motion. They were stepping into the West at a time of turbulent, transformative changes gathering momentum since the European arrival more than two and a half centuries earlier.

In his lecture, West will feature the stories of three persons — a Frenchman, an Osage Indian and a New Mexican. Their different experiences represent the several historical currents and suggest what it was like for the people riding them, during the six generations before Lewis and Clark.

A specialist in the social and environmental history of the American West, Elliott West is the author of seven books and more than 100 book chapters, articles and book reviews in national history journals and publications. West, the Alumni Distinguished Professor of American History in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has been honored with several national awards for his book The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado, including the Caughey Prize from the Western History Association, Best Work of Research Non-Fiction by PEN Center USA West, the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, Best Historical Non-Fiction on the West by Western Writers of America, and the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Organization of American Historians.

West also has won awards for The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains and Growing Up With the Country: Childhood on the Far-Western Frontier. Publishers Weekly described his latest book, The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story, as the “definitive analysis of the United States’ 1877 war with the Nez Perce” and concluded that “West tells it brilliantly.” He currently is working on a book-length survey of the history of the American West, 1850-1900.

Though his scholarship has been recognized nationally, West also has been honored with several awards for teaching, including the 2001 Charles and Nadine Baum Award as University Teacher of the Year at Arkansas and 1995 Arkansas Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For the past seven years, West has taken part extensively in national programs to bring new approaches and recent research to teaching history in public schools.

West received his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1967 and his master's degree in 1969 and doctorate in 1971, both from the University of Colorado. He also has taught at the University of Colorado at Denver, University of Texas at Arlington and as a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico, before joining the University of Arkansas faculty in 1979.

The Cherry Award program is designed to honor great teachers, to stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching and to encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. Individuals nominated for the award have a proven record as extraordinary teachers with a positive, inspiring and long-lasting effect on students, along with a record of distinguished scholarship.

The award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, who enrolled in the Baylor Law School in 1932 and passed the Texas State Bar Examination the following year. With a deep appreciation for how his life had been changed by significant teachers, he made an exceptional estate bequest to establish the Cherry Award program to recognize excellent teachers and bring them in contact with Baylor students. The first Robert Foster Cherry Award was made in 1991 and has since been awarded biennially.

The Cherry finalists each receive $15,000 and present a series of lectures at Baylor during the fall. In addition, finalists present a Cherry Award Lecture on their home campuses during the current academic year. The home department of the finalists also will receive $10,000 to foster the development of teaching skills.

The winner of the Cherry Award, which will be announced in spring 2010, will receive a final total of $215,000 and $35,000 for his home department.

For more information, visit www.baylor.edu/cherry_awards.

If West is chosen, he will teach in residence at Baylor during either the fall or spring of the 2010-11 academic year.


Elliott West, department of history
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences
479-575-5885, ewest@uark.edu

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