For William E. Pullen Professor Whittenburg’s students, the past is a place where they can learn and bring back insights for the present and the future. To make the past come alive for young people, Professor Whittenburg employs all types of media, environments, and forms of study. He is nationally known for his innovative site-based teaching, using archeological excavations, former slave quarters, museums, archives, and even the classrooms on the William and Mary campus. One of his articles on using the historical landscape to teach early American history has been widely discussed, reprinted, and used in its turn to teach teachers of early American history. Professor Whittenburg models what his articles teach. A tireless, patient, and sensitive teacher of graduate students, he has helped populate departments of history across the country with his doctoral students, many them known as excellent teachers themselves and all of them acknowledging that one of their highest goals is to “become a teacher like Jim.”
Professor Whittenburg has also made a great impact on the College and the study of early American history by his creation and leadership of the National Institute for American History and Democracy (NIAHD). Originally funded by a federal grant which Professor Whittenburg won, NIAHD has gone on to become self-supporting and expanding. Working with his close collaborator, Dr. Carolyn Whittenburg, Jim fashioned a range of innovative programs as part of NIAHD. In its pre-collegiate program, NIAHD brings more than 150 high school students to William and Mary each summer to study American history at Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Civil War sites. Dozens of former NIAHD students have gone on to study at the College. NIAHD also offers courses for William and Mary students during the academic year, and offers a semester or year-long program at the College for college students from any institution in the world. Together, Jim and Carolyn, working with colleagues, graduate students, and former doctoral students, have enriched both the College and the study of American history nationwide.
It is appropriate to have such an expert interpreter and guide of America’s past from the Faculty of Arts & Sciences be an inaugural winner of the Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.