American History Scholar Richard Polenberg Dies at 83Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, tributes
Richard “Dick” Polenberg, the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History Emeritus, died Nov. 26 in Ithaca. He was 83.
Polenberg, a foremost scholar of American history, taught at Cornell from 1966 through his retirement in 2012. He served as department chair from 1977-80, taught memorable large lecture courses (including his popular class on modern U.S. history, which reliably filled Bailey Hall), and trained and mentored countless graduate students over the decades.
“Almost from the day I arrived at Cornell in 1972, Dick served as my model for the perfect blend of teacher and scholar,” said R. Laurence Moore, the Howard A. Newman Professor of American Studies and History Emeritus and a close friend of Polenberg. “Thousands of Cornell students took his courses, and many others read his books. But what I will remember most about Dick are personal traits – his gentleness, his integrity, his unending compassion for anyone who needed his help.”
“Dick Polenberg was one of the greatest among a remarkable group of historians of his generation,” said Barry Strauss, the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. “He was a wonderful teacher, scholar and colleague. He was a wise and humane mentor, as insightful as he was generous. Those of us who knew him will always count ourselves as fortunate.”
Polenberg, who received his B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1959 and his master’s (1959) and Ph.D. (1964) from Columbia University, first came to campus as a graduate student to conduct research and began teaching at Cornell as an assistant professor in 1966. He became a full professor in 1970, was named the Goldwin Smith Professor of American History in 1986 and the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History in 2007.
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