On Wednesday, Feb. 19, GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of American Studies hosted a reception and lecture for alumni and faculty to honor two emeritus professors, James O. Horton and John Vlach.
Melani McAlister, chair of the department, kicked off the evening by announcing the launch of the Horton-Vlach Fund for American Studies, which honors extraordinary research and teaching of the two professors, their legacy in their multiple fields of interest and the influence they have had on their students’ education and lives.
The evening was also an opportunity to showcase the department’s current research initiatives. Guests received presentations from a GW faculty member, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, to learn about the breadth and diversity of American Studies at GW.
“We have a wonderful group of scholars in American Studies, at every level,” McAlister said. “We want to showcase the kinds of research the Horton-Vlach Fund will support—from work on sports and society, to 19th-century free black life, to queer theory. And we’ll support everything from undergraduate senior research projects to grad student conference papers or dissertations to our faculty’s books and articles.”
Before and after the presentations, alumni gathered to network and mingle in the Alumni House. Faculty and alumni alike fondly shared memories of these beloved professors.
Denise Meringolo, CCAS BA ’90, PhD ’05, associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, attended the event, in part, because of the lasting effect Professor Horton had on her when she was a student.
“James O. Horton taught me not only to be a historian and to approach American culture analytically,” Meringolo explained, “but more deeply, through his example, to be a public intellectual and a mentor. As a public historian, I often reflect on Jim’s gift for engaging audiences of all skills and backgrounds.”
“At this event, I was reminded that James Horton’s legacy is not only his is body of work, or in the admiration and affection of his colleagues,” she added. “It is alive and active in the army of museum professionals, public historians, policy makers, and professors he trained.”
As conversation and laughter filled alumni house long after the event had officially ended, it was clear to see and hear just how deeply both of these two men had touched the lives of generations of students.
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