Professor Elected For History Fellowship

Photo by Zach McGrath.
Photo by Zach McGrath.
Photo by Zach McGrath.

Associate Professor of History Susan Lewis has been elected as a fellow of the New York Academy of History (NYAH).

The NYAH is a professional organization devoted to the study and teaching of the history of the city and state of New York. Membership is exclusive by invitation.

Lewis said there were steps to take in order to be accepted into this fairly exclusive organization.

“You have to be nominated by somebody,” Lewis said. “Then there is a secret ballot to be elected. Dr. Gerald Benjamin, [Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement and Director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO)] asked if I would like to be nominated. I said, that would be great, and he did and I got a letter saying I was elected.”

Elected Fellows include: historians, independent scholars, public historians, museum curators and administrators, educators, archivists and others with a demonstrated record of achievement and publications. The NYAH publishes a newsletter, maintains a website, sponsors conferences and awards prizes, according to the website.

The NYAH is a group that was organized at Columbia University by Executive Director Kenneth T. Jackson. According to Lewis, Jackson is probably one of the most famous, if not the most famous New York State historian right now.

Lewis attended graduate school in Albany. From there, she transferred to Binghamton to earn her Ph. D in American History.

Lewis’ road to receiving this membership began with the story of her start at SUNY New Paltz, where she taught American and New York State history as an adjunct in 1998. She became a full-time professor in 2001.

“Professor Halpman was once on the board of the D&H [Delaware and Hudson] Canal Historical Society and Museum, and I was the director,” Lewis said. “One day, I was doing research here in the [Sojourner Truth] library. He said to me, ‘There’s going to be a position opening up at New Paltz and you should apply.’ So I sent in a letter. Two weeks before the term started, the head of the department called me and said someone who was supposed to teach a class wasn’t able to, and for me to come in to teach that class.”

At New Paltz, she has won both the 2008 Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award and the 2011 Excellence in Scholarship Award from the School of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Her 2009 book “Unexceptional Women,” about businesswomen in 19th century Albany, won the Hagley Prize for the best book published in business history in 2011.

Current chair of New Paltz’s History Department Professor Andrew Evans said beyond Lewis’ accolades, she is an  assest to the department and the college.

“Susan Lewis is the model of a devoted teacher-scholar,” Evans said. “She is one of the most popular teachers in the History Department; her classes on American and New York history routinely fill to the brim and beyond, she brings the knowledge from her research into the classroom and her scholarship is successful because she asks historical questions that are relevant to us today.”

SUNY New Paltz History Professor L.H. Roper said Lewis is one of the top historians of 19th century America.

“She is eminently worthy of her election to the Academy and she is a model colleague: one of our leading historians of the careers and experiences of women in the United States, especially in the nineteenth century,” Roper said.

As well as a model colleague, Roper said Lewis is an exceptional professor and hard worker.

“She is also a wonderful teacher, as manifested by her recognition as ‘Teacher of the Year’ in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences but also by the steady stream of testimonials from her pupils, and dedicated to serving our campus and the wider community,” Roper said. “Her only problem seems to be fitting 25 hours worth of work in a 24-hour day. “

Lewis is also in the middle of writing a college textbook about the history of New York State.

“I was on a leave last fall, because my husband was teaching in Florence, [and] I wanted to go with him,” she said. “While I was there, I was working on a New York State History college textbook, which I’ve been writing for a while.”

On top of all of her achievements, Lewis has found the time to run a blog titled, “New York Rediscovered: Intriguing Stories From The History Of New York State.”

“I went to Gerald Benjamin who is the head of CRREO, which is our Community and Regional Outreach Branch [who agreed to host the blog],” Lewis said. “From there, I started writing. There are a lot of interesting stories in New York State history that people don’t know. That’s what my blog is about.”

Next on Lewis’ agenda is attending a Gala party for NYAH members on April 1 in New York City.

About Melissa Kramer 157 Articles
Melissa Kramer is a fourth-year journalism major who lives for sports and music.