Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture

Leading Early American Scholarship Since 1943

Uncommon Sense

The following is from the Uncommon Sense archives. It first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2012-2013 issue, no. 131.

From the Director’s Desk

Director's DeskKarin A. Wulf, Director designate of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Photo courtesy of Megan Shearin, University Relations.

As all Institute constituents surely know by now, Karin A. Wulf, Associate Professor of History and American Studies at the College of William and Mary and the current Book Review Editor of the William and Mary Quarterly, will become Director of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture on July 1, 2013. It was my pleasure to present Karin as my successor at the Associates reception, held at the beautiful Historic New Orleans Collection during the AHA’s January convention, even though she really needs no introduction to most of you. Karin received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1993, the year after I began my tenure at the Institute, and then came to our neighborhood as a member of the history faculty at Old Dominion University. During her two years at ODU, she attended colloquia and conferences at the Institute but forsook Tidewater Virginia for American University in 1995. In 2002, I persuaded Karin to accept an appointment as Visiting Book Review Editor of the Quarterly, and upon joining the William and Mary faculty in history and American studies in 2004, she agreed to jettison the “Visiting” and assumed the post she has held at the Institute ever since. She brings to the directorship a fine record of publications, research interests in women’s and family history, and a contagious enthusiasm for what she defines as the Institute’s commitment to “the production of scholarly excellence.”

There will be other changes at the Institute beginning this summer, and to reassure you about the continuity of our programs, publications, and traditional commitment to the highest standards of scholarship, I’d like to give you a preview of what’s in the works. When Karin assumes the helm, she will necessarily no longer continue in the very important position of Book Review Editor of the William and Mary Quarterly. After helpful and supportive conversations with Professor Leisa Meyer, chair of the history department at the College of William and Mary, Karin and I decided to offer the book review editorship to Brett Rushforth, a former Institute fellow and associate professor of history at the College. Brett responded with genuine interest and enthusiasm, the required negotiations came to a successful conclusion, and Karin and I are pleased to announce that Brett will be on board and ready to go on July 1.

Karin’s first major task as director is indeed a formidable one: to constitute a committee to conduct an international search for the next editor of the William and Mary Quarterly. Chris Grasso, who has filled that position with such distinction for the past thirteen years, will return full-time to teaching at the College of William and Mary and to his own scholarly work on July 1. We are very pleased that Eric Slauter, professor of English at the University of Chicago, has agreed to serve as Visiting Editor during 2013–2014, while the search is in progress. Eric will enjoy the excellent support of the Quarterly staff—Managing Editor Meg Musselwhite, Office Manager Kelly Crawford, Assistant Editor Carol Arnette, and Office Assistant Laureden Sawyer—which means that subscribers can continue to count on the journal coming out on time and filled with fine articles.

Finally, after thirty years as Managing Editor of Publications, Gil Kelly has decided to devote himself full time to his Porsche and his pipe and to leave dangling participles, run-on sentences, misplaced modifiers, and other excruciating grammatical atrocities in the very capable hands of Virginia Montijo Chew, who has stepped gracefully and competently into his old position. Kathy Burdette has become Senior Project Editor in Ginny’s stead, and on February 1, 2013, we welcomed a new Manuscript Editor to the book program—Kaylan Stevenson, a former Institute editorial apprentice who received her M.A. in history from the College of William and Mary in January.

That’s a lot of change, coming all at once. But Institute constituents can count on some things remaining the same. Fredrika Teute will continue, as she has done so competently for a quarter of a century, to direct the Institute’s book publications division, aided by her fine Assistant Editor of Publications, Nadine Zimmerli. The Director’s Office will still benefit from the work of its extremely competent staff—Manager of Institute Administration Beverly Smith, Director of Development Shawn Holl, Coordinator of Donor Relations Melody Smith and Webmaster Kim Foley. We have an Executive Board and a Council whose members are deeply committed to the Institute and its mission, and two equally supportive permanent sponsors in the College of William and Mary and Colonial Williamsburg.

And we have the Associates, whose names are gratefully listed in this newsletter. The intellectual and material investments the Associates make in the Institute’s work inspires and challenges every one of us responsible for it to achieve the standard of excellence which has been this organization’s traditional hallmark. I know how much that support has meant to me these past twenty years, and I am confident that, in her quest to build an exciting future for the Institute, Karin can look forward to the same vital measure of collegiality that has sustained me.

I end this column on a sad note by offering a remembrance of Gillian T. Cell, who died September 7, 2012. Gill Cell served as provost of the College of William and Mary from 1993 to 2003, and, by virtue of that post, she was the College’s permanent representative on the Omohundro Institute’s Executive Board. Among all her sterling qualities, none were more important to me than that she earned her doctorate in history at the University of Liverpool under the tutelage of that legendary Institute hand, David Beers Quinn, and that she published her first scholarly article in the William and Mary Quarterly. How often I mused with gratitude on what a very great privilege it was to begin my directorship under someone who instinctively understood and deeply appreciated the Institute and its commitment to excellence. Not that her previous Institute connections made her a pushover when it came to matters of budget and “strategic planning”—the Commonwealth’s favorite euphemism for the fiscal cutbacks it demanded from higher education during her tenure. Nobody who knew Gill would ever have entertained that thought! Rather it was that Gill saw the Institute’s raison d’etre as an investment in the life of the mind, expressed through research and writing about the early American past. Her belief in the intrinsic value and broadest dissemination of the Institute’s work led her to provide, with diligence and determination, the financial resources that allowed that work to flourish. Two years after her retirement as provost, Gill accepted election to the Executive Board as a member at large, and for the next six years, she gave generously of her time, energy, and experience in helping the Institute sustain its traditional pursuits while exploring new programmatic opportunities within yet another era of stringent budgetary realities.

ALS claimed Gill Cell’s life a scant fifteen months after she concluded her final term on the Executive Board. Always she was our good and generous friend, and for myself and on behalf of the Institute for which she did so much, I gratefully salute her.

Ron Hoffman