The Faculty Council of Brooklyn College acknowledges the services of former members of the faculty by adopting a "minute," or brief note, that describes their contributions to the College as scholars, teachers, and colleagues. The Department of History has a tradition of excellence that we commemorate here by republishing the minutes written for those members who have left in recent years.
current as of May 2000
|James P. Johnson||Hobart Spalding, Jr.|
|Charlton M. Lewis||Melvin R. Williams|
|Philip Dawson||Teofilo F. Ruiz|
|Abraham S. Eisenstadt||Jerome L Sternstein|
|Ari Hoogenboom||Hans L Trefousse|
James P. Johnson
and loyal alumnus of Duke University, James P. Johnson began his
teaching career at Brooklyn College in 1966 while completing his
doctoral studies at Columbia University. Over the years Jim won
recognition as a gifted and prolific scholar of modern American history,
publishing two studies of the coal industry (A "New Deal"
for Soft Coal  and The Politics of Soft Coal [also in
1979]), two books on the history of New Jersey (Westfield: From
Settlement to Suburb  and New Jersey: A History of
Ingenuity and Industry ) and over fifty articles in
professional journals and popular magazines. His biggest hit in the
world of popular history came in 1991 when he co-authored Righteous
Carnage: The List Murders.
In the mid-1970s, Jim served the department ably as deputy chairperson and figured prominently in the creation of the History Department’s contribution to the Brooklyn College core curriculum – two tasks in which his lively sense of humor and gentlemanly demeanor carried the day on more than one difficult occasion. From the 1980s until his retirement, Jim taught regularly in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program, providing an outstanding example of the place of history in an interdisciplinary curriculum.
For over three decades students flocked to Jim’s classes, drawn by his erudition as well as his openness to new ideas and new methodologies. He was known to his students as an extraordinarily well organized teacher. He was particularly successful in encouraging students to explore the complexities of personality and motivation by a careful use of psychology in historical study. As both teacher and colleague, Jim was a model of intellectual integrity, showing with wit and grace the risks of unexamined assumptions and the folly of ideological agendas in academic life.
| Charlton M. ("Tod")
Lewis joined the History Department in 1965. He received his B.A. degree
from Yale University and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University
of California at Berkeley. At Berkeley he was a student of Joseph
Levenson, one of the shapers of Chinese studies in the United States.
Tod joined the History Department at Brooklyn College immediately upon
the completion of his Ph.D.
With the encouragement of John K. Fairbank, dean of America’s China scholars, Tod revised his thesis into an excellent book, Prologue to the Chinese Revolution: The Transformation of Ideas and Institutions in Hunan Province, 1891-1907. In it he shows how Hunanese literati dissidents turned from anti-foreignism to reform and then to revolution. In this book on Hunan, a region in southeast China of extraordinary political and cultural importance, and in subsequent articles, he further explored the secret societies and reform movements that have played a crucial role in modern Chinese history.
At Brooklyn College, Tod Lewis was an admirable teacher and leader. Loving his field as he did, he taught about it with a soft-spoken intensity which attracted students to his classes on Chinese and Japanese history. He served as chairman of the History Department from 1986 to 1989 and as coordinator of Core 9, a difficult and vital job, from 1990 to 1993. Both in the History Department and more widely in Brooklyn College, Tod worked industriously to improve the curriculum and our institution for the students with an attention matched by few of his colleagues.
Tod was and is a kindly, generous, gracious person who helped transform a commuter college into a warm and caring community by his presence and personality. By extending the hospitality of his lovely home in Brooklyn Heights to his history colleagues on numerous occasions, he furthered the spirit and comraderie of the Department. We will greatly miss his benevolent presence.
Hobart Spalding, Jr.
| Hobart ("Hoby")
Spalding, Jr. began teaching at Brooklyn College as an Assistant
Professor in 1966, one year after completing his Ph.D. in Latin American
History at the University of California at Berkeley. He was promoted to
Professor of History in 1979.
At Brooklyn he taught courses on colonial and modern Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the years he wrote on U.S.-Latin American and on international relations (especially concerning the influence of the AFL-CIO over Latin American trade unions) and on the Dominican Republic. At the CUNY Graduate Center he taught a seminar on social history, and courses on Latin American Labor and Working Class History as well as on the Caribbean and the history of Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile.
While at Brooklyn College he published widely in his field. In 1970 he published a book of documents in Spanish on the working class history of Latin America (1890-1912), and followed this with a monograph on Organized Labor in Latin America (1977). In 1986 and 1990 he collaborated with the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries, co-authoring two monographs that evaluated that agency’s Latin American programs. In 1986 he contributed a chapter entitled "The Urban Working Class and Early Latin American Labour Movement, 1880-1930" to the Cambridge History of Latin America. In 1992 he brought out a study on Devastation in the Southern Cone: The Inheritance of the Neo-Liberal Years, part of the Latin American Issues series. He also co-edited two collections, one on Ideology and Social Change in Latin America (1977) and another on The Dominican Republic Today: Realities and Perspectives (1996). He furthermore found time to publish scores of scholarly and popular articles.
His scholarly productivity and his service on the boards of more than a half dozen periodicals dealing with Latin America and Marxist studies gave Hoby an important international reputation. He served as participating editor for Latin American Perspectives since 1975 and was one of the founders and contributing editors of the Newsletter of International Labour Studies (The Hague, 1979-1980). Beginning in 1982 he became a contributing editor of Science and Society and since 1991 he sat on the editorial board of The North American Congress of Latin America which published the influential Latin America Report. In 1999 he joined the editorial board of Socialism and Democracy after spending several years on its advisory board.
Hoby excelled as a public intellectual and as a prominent Marxist scholar. He tirelessly gave scores of public lectures, chaired sessions at scholarly conferences, participated in panels both here and abroad, and gave many radio interviews. A large coterie of students, some of whom went on to distinguished graduate and university careers, took his courses and appreciated the dedication with which he directed their work.
Hoby will be missed by students and colleagues alike and he leaves a large gap in the History Department’s Third World offerings. Retirement will certainly free him to pursue a myriad of activities as scholar and public intellectual, and we expect him to keep very busy and engaged in the years ahead.
Abraham S. Eisenstadt
The Department of History observes with profound regret the retirement of Professor
Abraham S. Eisenstadt after forty years of distinguished scholarship and service to
Brooklyn College. We shall miss his generous spirit, nimble wit, keen erudition, and
unflagging devotion to the highest standards of his profession.
about three decades of work as a professional historian in the Brooklyn
College Department of History, Ari Hoogenboom has retired. Ari chaired
the department from 1968 to 1974. He was more than a professional historian.
He was also the dear husband of Olive Hoogenboom, father of three children,
and active member and sometime president of the First Unitarian Church
of Brooklyn. Those of who have known him over the years are fully aware
that Ari is a union in many states and that his many states are one and
His accomplishments as an historian stand out. They range over a variety of periods and fields, from the colonial age to the modern, from straightly historical to interdisciplinary, from state and local history to national, from political and institutional to social and individual, from biographical to prosopography. Ari has written with great expertise about society on the eve of the American Revolution, about the history of Pennsylvania, about the history of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and with most distinguished expertise about the Gilded Age and the life and presidency of Rutherford Birchard Hayes.
Two of his many books encapsulate much of what Ari has worked on in his historical enterprise and writing, Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement 1865-1883 (1961) and Rutherford B. Hayes, Warrior and President (1995). Both are highly memorable books. The first was written by a hard-working, young historian, who was moving from apprenticeship to mastery in the workshop of David Donald, even then one of the nation's most promising historians and no less significantly for young Ari one of the most competent and devoted teachers of the art of history. The latest of his publications is his massive biography of Rutherford Hayes. The book's dimensions should be noted: the text runs 540 pages and its diminutively-printed note on sources runs over 70 pages. At every point the biography shows Ari's fine mastery of what we call the middle period of American history, the decades, that is, from the 1830s through the 1890s.
We would not give Ari the recognition he so richly deserves if we did not also mention some of the other books he co-authored along the road of his career: The Enterprising Colonials with William S. Sachs, A History of Pennsylvania with Philip Shriver Klein, and A History of the Interstate Commerce Commission with Olive Hoogenboom. Ari also won many awards, including a Fulbright, a Guggenheim, a Broeklundian professorship at Brooklyn College, and he was a visiting professor at several notable universities.
Those of us who have known him recognize as a preeminent fact that Ari's family has always been an essential part, very likely the most important fact of his professional work. Ari, as a historian, is unimaginable without Olive. In all balance, we cannot celebrate Ari as a professional historian without also celebrating Olive. She is, in her own right, a full fledged and highly qualified historian, testified to not only by her magisterial history of the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn but also by her major role as an editor in the massive enterprise of the forthcoming American National Biography.
Ari always offers the bonhommie of a caring, loving friend, who speaks loudly and carries no stick. So there is much to celebrate in Ari's achievement as a professional historian on this occasion of his retirement. Long may he continue to do all the wonderful things he has done up to today.
| When Robert Muccigrosso retired, a former student bemoaned
the news. "Professor Muccigrosso was the best professor I ever had," she
said. "He was a such a gentleman."
The members of the Department of History, certainly most of those who knew him for over three and a half decades, would concur that Robert Muccigrosso always exhibited quiet dignity, whether it was in teaching his classes, conferring with students about their problems, serving on department committees, or in his scholarly life.
A graduate from Syracuse University in 1960, Phi Beta Kappa, Robert wrote his first book on Richard Welling for his Columbia University doctorate in 1966. Having studied in the shadow of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Robert followed this book with a study of the mind and art of its architect, Ralph Adams Cram, a conservative who shared Robert's love of medievalism. Robert also teamed up with David R. Contosta to write America in the Twentieth Century: Coming of Age for Harper & Row in 1988. He then wrote on the Chicago Columbian Exhibition in Celebrating the New World, followed by an award-winning study of American manufacturing, Manufacturing in America: a Legacy of Excellence.These works, plus scores of reviews and articles, and a string of fellowships and awards, earned him high regard in the field of American history. In 1972-73, as a Fulbright fellow, he lectured at the University of Rome. A man who never quite fell in love with New York, he nonetheless traveled the subways with his New York Review of Books, or some recent publication in American history, or his Proust. He seemed never without a book.
Robert understood the corruptible nature of man, and loved to teach his courses on conservative thought in America. His friends rejoiced that he finally met his beloved Maxine. Those of us who knew him well admired his wide knowledge, but we loved him for his wit. We understood that beneath his gentlemanly warmth was a man who appreciated the absurdities of life.
Teofilo F. Ruiz
Ruiz joined the History Department of Brooklyn College in the fall of 1973.
After receiving his B.A. from the City College of New York, he entered
Princeton University and completed his Ph.D. in medieval history under
Professor Joseph Strayer who remained his lifelong friend. Teo soon became
one of the best and most committed teachers that the history department
has ever had. At the same time, he developed into one of the world's most
acknowledged experts on late medieval Castile.
Teo's forbears came from the heart of old Castile; they left their small village in the mountains north of Burgos to settle in Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century. When Teo migrated to New York from Cuba, he attended CCNY evenings while working during the day. His experiences as an evening session student prepared him well for teaching Brooklyn College students. His empathy and caring for those he taught drew to his classes on medieval history, Spain, and witchcraft a large following. Eschewing formalities and abhorring traditional distances between teacher and student, Teo befriended his students and encouraged them to achieve. He very quickly became the most popular teacher in the department and one of the college's favorites. He mentored many students, giving them countless hours beyond the classroom, which included organizing and leading reading groups in history and literature. He also headed the Ford Program which nurtures and encourages the best students who pass through our gates. In 1994 the Carnegie Foundation recognized these qualities by naming him National Teacher of the Year.
While dedicating himself to teaching, Teo also found time to pursue a remarkable scholarly career. His book Crisis and Continuity: Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), a social history, was awarded the Premio del Rey prize by the American Historical Association for the best book on Spanish history. Before this he published Sociedad y poder real en Castilla (Barcelona, 1981) and Historia de Burgos en la Edad Media (Valladolid, 1984) as well as many articles and chapters in books and important journals including Past & Present and Annales: Economies, Sociétés Civilisations. Establishing himself as one of America's leading medieval historians, Teo was invited to teach and conduct his research, while on leave from Brooklyn College, at the University of Michigan and Princeton University.
Professor Ruiz now leaves us to embark on a new career as professor of medieval history in the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. We know that his new students and colleagues will appreciate his talents and warmth. We wish him great success in his new position.
Jerome L. Sternstein
Sternstein joined the history department of Brooklyn College, his alma
mater, in 1972 after serving on the faculties of Columbia University and
the University of Iowa. He was also a Teaching Fellow at Brown University
where he received the Ph.D. in 1968. A specialist in the politics of the
Gilded Age, Jerry's dissertation on Senator Nelson W. Aldrich won the Alan
Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians for the best dissertation
in American History in 1968. He was a fellow at the Charles Warren Center
for Studies in American History at Harvard University as well as the recipient
of several other research fellowships. He is the author of several articles
on late nineteenth century politics and the editor, with John A. Garraty,
of the Encyclopedia of American Biography, 2nd edition (New
York, HarperCollins, 1996)
Jerry brought to his courses, as to his writing, a penchant for plain speaking and an incisive wit that cut through padded argument to reveal underlying issues. His barbed questions and comments regularly punctured academic pretense, cultural fads, and political special pleading. His enthusiasm for good food led him to develop a course on food in history, made him a valued source of gastronomic information for his colleagues and a reliable chairman of the Department's Amenities Committee. His commitment to fairness as well as his research, writing and teaching on political and economic issues made him a natural choice to serve as a member of the Brooklyn College Chapter of the Professional Staff Congress and as a Grievance Counselor for many years.
Hans L. Trefousse
| Hans Trefousse was not only a member of the History Department of Brooklyn College; he
was a force. At department meetings, and throughout the college, he was outspoken with
respect to his principles and ideas, arguing positions with vigor and passion. One could be
certain, however, that Hans would never permit a disagreement over academic policy or
politics to spill over into the personal arena.
He was a force too because of an impressive academic record. Article followed article, book followed book. One had the sense that a year did not go by without some major contribution by Hans being noted and passed around the history department. He either wrote or edited no less than sixteen books! These included biographies of Andrew Johnson, Ben Butler, Benjamin Franklin Wade, Carl Schurz, and Thaddeus Stevens, studies of Abraham Lincoln, Reconstruction, radical Republicanism, and a dictionary of Reconstruction. And in case one gets the impression that Hans Trefousse specialized only in the Civil War or the nineteenth century, we must note that he also wrote or edited books on Pearl Harbor, German and American relations in the 1930s and 1940s, and a book on the Cold War. What impressed all his colleagues was not only the long list of his publications but how modest he was in talking about his work. Scholarship appears so tightly woven into Han's life, retirement merely means some extra hours to continue his next book project. That project, already well under way, is a study of Lincoln's reputation during his own lifetime. And he remains the editor of the Anvil series of historical studies.
Academic honors have deservedly graced Han's career. He has received the distinguished and highly prestigious national award, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. Brooklyn College has recognized his contributions by awarding him a Broeklundian Professorship and then a Distinguished Professorship, the college's highest honor for academic excellence.
Deeply committed to his institution, Hans has also contributed to the life of the college and the university community in special posts and assignments. He has served with distinction for many years in the Faculty Council of Brooklyn College, representing the social sciences division. A long-time member, also, of the University Faculty Senate, Hans rose to the position of Vice Chair of its Academic Freedom Committee. In speaking to Hans you know too that he was proud to have been an original member of the college-wide committee that established the Core Studies Program of Brooklyn College, an innovative and nationally recognized integrated course of liberal studies for all undergraduates.
What is especially remarkable about Hans is that his career did not follow a straight trajectory. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1942, earning admission to Phi Beta Kappa, and immediately went into the army, where he saw action on the Western Front. Not yet the important historian he was to become, Hans played his own significant part in the last days of World War II. A story is told by John Toland in his book The Last 100 Days. Three hundred elite German troops, under the command of one Colonel Hans von Poncet, had captured and occupied a massive monument in Leipzig, the "Battle of Nations" monument honoring the war dead of 1813. While the police chief of the city was arranging a surrender and the city defenses were rapidly collapsing, Poncet insisted on carrying out Hitler's orders never to surrender. Captain Hans Trefousse, who was born in Frankfurt am Main, and who with his parents had fled Germany in 1936, conceived the idea of negotiating directly with Poncet. Accompanied by his regimental executive officer and a captured German soldier, Hans entered the monument under the cover of a white flag. Following 11 hours of intense talks Hans finally convinced Poncet to surrender pointing out that the Germans and the Americans were likely to be allied against the Russians following the war and that the sacrifice of German soldiers would be needless. Who but Hans could have used a plot from an eighteenth-century German play by Heinrich Kleist to make his case, arguing that the Prince of Homburg had won a battle by disobeying orders? Rising from private to captain, Hans was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars. He retired from the army as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Following his service in the army, he entered the graduate program in history at Columbia University where in 1950 he received his Ph.D. It was there too that he met his lovely wife, Rashelle. He began his full-time career in Brooklyn College in 1950 and was also a long-time member of the Graduate School faculty.
None of the above conveys the full sense of the man, however. If you knew Hans you were just as likely to bump into him at the New York Public Library, some Broadway play, the Opera or at the Tanglewood Music festival as at the campus. These larger influences obviously rubbed off on his son, Roger, who is a composer and musician. As a colleague you have to wonder where Hans finds the time to engage in such wide-ranging activities and still produce so much.
Unfailingly courteous, he treated junior colleagues with the same respect, concern and consideration as his senior colleagues. Members of the History Department feel deeply privileged for knowing Hans Trefousse and will miss his presence greatly.
| Mel Williams joined the history department of Brooklyn
College in the fall of 1969. At the time he held an M.A. degree from
North Carolina College and had already served on the faculties of Morgan
State, South Carolina State, and Knoxville Colleges. He received his
PhD. in history from Johns Hopkins University in 1975.
"Serious," "thoughtful," "dedicated," and "sensible" were adjectives which the authors of his supporting letters often applied to Williams. They were indeed well-chosen words. Williams' carefully researched articles on the history of the African-American community in Washington D.C., on local government in the District, and his biographical essays on Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass exemplified all of these qualities. So did his teaching.
Never happier than when reading, Williams offered a broad range of courses in American political and social history to both undergraduates and M.A. candidates. His specialty was African-American history, a subject that he was continually refining to make it more accessible to those who studied with him. Not afraid of hard work, Williams often wentthe extra mile to help those in his classes do their best. He was concerned that they write well and spent much time to insure that they did. It was only with deep reluctance that Williams ever gave up on a student; when he did so, it was truly for good cause.
Williams generously gave of himself both in the service of the college and his community. He was very active in neighborhood affairs. From 1980 to 1982 he was acting chairperson of the Department of Africana Studies at Brooklyn College during a particularly crucial time. He served on numerous department committees and acted as sponsor of the undergraduate Historical Society for several years until his retirement in 1998. In appreciation of his efforts, the publications committee of the society dedicated the first volume in a series of occasional student papers to Williams. Students do indeed miss him for all of those qualities which Williams' professors once praised. His colleagues regret Mel's departure even more.