Earlier this week I met with a few classes and gave the Yerxa Lecture at Eastern Nazarene University in Quincy, Massachusetts. Thanks to Terttu Savoie for setting up this great display at the reference desk of ENC’s Nease Library.
It’s pronounced “Quinzy.”
This was one of the many things I learned earlier this week when I visited Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts to deliver the History Department‘s annual Donald Yerxa Lecture. I have delivered a lot of lectures named after people, but I think this was the first time I ever gave a lecture named after 1). A person who was still alive and 2). a person who I know and who as recently as last month was asking me when he might receive an overdue referee report for a journal he edits. 🙂
Some of you know Don Yerxa from the many interviews he has conducted with prominent historians in the pages of Books and Culture and other publications. Others might recognize his name from his leadership of the Historical Society. Christian historians know him as the current editor of Fides et Historia, the academic journal of the
Conference on Faith and History. This week I learned that Don was also deeply committed to Eastern Nazarene College, his alma mater and the school where he spent his entire career as a history professor (among other roles).
It was a great day in Quincy. I got up early on Monday morning to meet with some very wide-awake students in Nick Pruitt‘s 7:45am politics class. Nick is completing his dissertation in American history at Baylor University under the direction of Barry Hankins and is at Eastern Nazarene this year on a term appointment. I had no idea that Nick had landed this position. I had just seen him a few months earlier during I talk I gave at Baylor.
Nick’s students were eager to talk politics. We talked about the (limited) role that historians can play in political elections, Historians Against Trump (and why I supported it), and the political sensibilities of the students at Eastern Nazarene College (which are all over the map!).
Later in the day I visited Bill McCoy‘s Critical Readings in History course. Bill is the chair of the Eastern Nazarene History Department and one of the last Yerxa hires. His gracious hospitality even included a bowl of New England clam chowder at a seafood stand on the beach! Eastern Nazarene has some very bright and engaged history majors. They are reading my Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past and came with a lot of questions for me. The two-hour class went by very quickly and the conversation was spirited.
My evening Yerxa Lecture was titled “The Power to Transform:” History, Christian Thinking, and American Democracy.” I tried to take some of the themes of Why Study History? and connect them to our depressing political culture, the weakness of Christian thinking in evangelical churches, and the decline of the humanities. This all sounds pretty depressing, but I did try to offer some hope and a way forward.
Thanks to Bill for bringing me to Eastern Nazarene, Nick for hosting me in his class, Don for having a career that is worthy of a lecture series, and the Eastern Nazarene students for making me feel at home.