UA Appoints New Summersell Chair
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Lesley Jill Gordon, former professor of history at the University of Akron, is the new Charles Grayson Summersell Endowed Chair of Southern History at The University of Alabama.
The Summersell Chair endowment was established in 1997 by Frances S. Summersell in order to support southern historical scholarship and honor her late husband, who had taught at the University for more than 40 years.
Gordon, a Civil War and Southern history scholar, received her graduate and doctoral degrees at the University of Georgia, but then moved to Kentucky to teach at Murray State University before she accepted her most recent position in Akron, Ohio.
“I am really happy to return to the South and to be at The University of Alabama,” Gordon said. “It feels like coming home.”
Gordon knew the former Summersell Chair, Dr. George Rable, for years before he retired, and she says she feels privileged to follow in the footsteps of someone so well-respected. Building on his legacy, she hopes to promote the history department’s graduate program and attract new students.
She also wants to highlight the department as a whole by bringing in nationally and internationally recognized scholars for the annual John Caldwell Calhoun Sanders Lecture Series.
“I am impressed by how strong this department is,” Gordon said. “We have tremendous scholars of southern history.”
Though Gordon has focused the majority of her research on Civil War military history and the ways that soldiers cope with the realities of war, she is excited by the University’s unique ties to Cuba and hopes to utilize that relationship to expand her research interests and create new collaborative opportunities.
In the course of her career, Gordon has published five books on the Civil War, and she is currently working on her sixth, “Battlefield Cowardice: Violence and Memory in the American Civil War.” She has authored dozens of articles, encyclopedia articles, and reviews, and she also has won more than two dozen honors, awards and fellowships.
For the last few summers, Gordon has also worked at the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg, participating in panels and giving lectures, which are featured on C-SPAN.
“It is an exciting time to be at the University,” Gordon said. “I can feel the energy, and it is encouraging to be a part of this.”
The history department is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards included Rhodes and Goldwater scholarships.
The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.