Sewanee: The University of the South

Endowed Chairs Named at 2013 Commencement

May 20, 2013

Professors Register and Willis were named to endowed chairs during the University's recent Commencement.

Woody Register was named the Francis S. Houghteling Professor of American History. Mrs. James L. Houghteling, in 1923, began endowment of a chair in American history in memory of her son, an alumnus of the University and a one-time instructor in the college.

Register, who began teaching at Sewanee in 1992, is Professor of History, director of the American Studies Program, and, beginning in the 2013-14 academic year, chair of the Department of History. He received his B.A. from Sewanee in 1980 and a doctorate in history in 1991 from Brown University. His research has been in post-Civil War American cultural and intellectual history. Register's teaching and research range widely in the history of popular culture, gender, consumer culture, business, and social welfare in the early twentieth century. His most recent work concerns the history of friendship and masculinity, which he examines through a historical reconstruction of the lives of five boys — “street Arabs” — who in the 1890s were “rescued” from the slums of New York City and put through the George Junior Republic, a juvenile reform program near Ithaca, New York. In 2001 Oxford University Press published his study of the Broadway and Coney Island showman Fred Thompson: The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements. Partnering with Bruce Dorsey of Swarthmore College, he also has published Crosscurrents in American Culture: A Reader in United States History, a two-volume collection of texts in American cultural history (Houghton-Mifflin 2007).

John Willis was named The Jessie Ball duPont Professor. Mrs. duPont’s endowment is to support the teaching staff at the University.

Willis began teaching Southern history at Sewanee in 1991. In his courses and writings, Willis examines the region's past from a variety of perspectives. Some of his courses (like America's Civil War) emphasize political and military history, others focus on economic and racial issues (the Old South and Reconstructing the South), and others (like Southern Lives) are primarily concerned with culture and memory.  In addition to courses within the history department, he also contributes to the American Studies and Environmental Studies programs. Willis has produced books on antebellum Virginia and post-Civil War Mississippi, and is currently researching a social and environmental history of the Cumberland Plateau. He has published in The Journal of American History, The American Historical Review, Southern Cultures, and The Journal of Southern History, and has presented papers drawn from his research to the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. Professor Willis has received grants from a number of philanthropic agencies, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Historical Association, and the Mellon and duPont foundations.

Willis earned his B.A. from Baylor University and M.A. and Ph. D. from University of Virginia.

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