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Uncommon Sense

By Holly White · October 17, 2018

OI History: Tales from Former Apprentices, Part 6

apprentices 9 min read

As part of our seventy-fifth anniversary, we at the Omohundro Institute continue to reflect on what makes our institution such a special place. One of those things is our Apprenticeship in Historical Editing. Today’s guest post comes from former apprentice J. Frederick Fausz who is currently an Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri- St. Louis.


by J. Frederick Fausz

I appreciated Holly White’s perspectives on the OI apprenticeship program in historical editing.  Her assertion that it “leaves its mark on you” was very true in my case, nurturing scholarship, influencing teaching, and expanding employment opportunities in my 40-year academic career.

As a first generation college student who had lived at home, I embraced the small M.A. program at William & Mary, preferring its location, curriculum, and especially the bonus of an innovative editorial apprenticeship that provided an orientation to the campus and academic expectations several weeks before classes began.  I turned down a Thomas Jefferson Fellowship at the University of Virginia to join the Institute, and I never regretted it.

In July 1970, I was among those early-era apprentices discussed in Holly’s blog post, who were immediately immersed in an accelerated introduction to historical editing five full summer days a week.  Even though the other four apprentices (including former OI books editor, Fredrika Teute) had attended colleges far more prestigious than mine, we all suffered through the “boot camp” of  repeated trips to the Swem Library stacks, filling cart after cart with every book cited in submissions to the William and Mary Quarterly. We also spent fifteen hours per week working at the Institute after M.A. classes began, allowing us to blend the theoretical perspectives of graduate seminars with actual fact-based articles.

An unofficial, but equally significant, aspect of the apprentice experience was attending the 10 am coffee break at the Institute. We had our own mugs on a shelf, next to those of the literati, and many remained there for years, since apprentices were always welcomed back.  Former and future scholars joined famous visitors to discuss topics of all kinds, academic and otherwise. The opportunity to meet and converse with notable scholars, whom non-apprentices knew only by reputation, represented the best traditions of Institute camaraderie.

That was only one aspect of the connections among people and scholarship, research and writing, which the apprenticeship program has nurtured for decades. I was a prime example—and beneficiary–of those intertwined relationships.  After my Masters year, I chose to remain at William and Mary for the Ph.D.  Since my dissertation research focused on multicultural relations in early Jamestown, I became the first Assistant Editor of Philip Barbour’s three-volume Complete Works of Captain John Smith, 1580-1631, serving from 1974-76.  In that capacity, Norman Fiering asked me to evaluate an unsolicited manuscript for possible publication:  an early version of The Invasion of America by Francis Jennings!  It was a revelation, considering the primitive state of ethnohistoriography at the time.

My editorial affiliation with the Institute also led to a 1976-77 NEH pre-doctoral research fellowship at the D’Arcy McNickle Center for the Study of American Indians at the Newberry Library.  Chicago was replete with Institute connections.  I became friends with Lester Cappon, past OI director and William and Mary Quarterly editor.  Because Bill Towner headed the Newberry, Lester joked about the incestuous professional connections between the Institute and the Library in many of our monthly dinners and symphony concerts.

Just as I arrived, Francis Jennings became the new director of the “Indian Center,” and another old friend of Philip Barbour—the eminent British scholar, David Beers Quinn—renewed our collective interest in John Smith when he came to Chicago and took me to lunch in the Raleigh Room of the Drake Hotel!  As memorable as that was, I conversed more regularly with James Axtell, who had a two-year research fellowship at the Newberry.  His ethnohistorical insights were so fresh and stimulating that I invited him to be the outside reader for my doctoral dissertation defense.  That 1977 trip to Williamsburg helped pave the way to his faculty appointment at W&M the next year.

I am very grateful for the Institute’s many professional and personal contributions to my life and career.  Even before I received my Ph.D., I published a 25-page, extensively annotated 17th century document in WMQ with Jon Kukla; wrote my first book review for that journal; and copyedited an entire book issued by the Institute.

Current and future apprentices should know that expertise in editing has real professional value.  My OI service led to “Camp Edit, 1975” in Charlottesville, where, after several grueling weeks, I earned certification from the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. After completing my Ph.D. in 1977 and confronting a very tight job market for college teachers, I received a year-long tax-free federal fellowship in historical editing at The Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe at the Maryland Historical Society. As that fellowship year ended, I was offered a fulltime, permanent position at The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.  Most senior editors of well-funded, multi-year NHPRC projects desired editorial experience far more than a factual knowledge of a particular time period.

But I was determined to teach, and turning down long-term editing projects enabled me to become a colleague of David Beers Quinn and Alison Quinn when they relocated to St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  They were great friends for many years, and we shared treasured memories of the Institute. Their commitment to historical editing left an enduring legacy for my career.  In 2011, I was the only faculty recipient at the large University of Missouri-St. Louis campus to receive the “Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.”  What made me stand out was my practice over many years of extensively copyediting every student paper at all levels. My Institute apprenticeship had lasted an academic lifetime, as I shared the wisdom of writing well with future generations!

Stay tuned for part 7 of OI History: “Tales from Former Apprentices.”

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