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Message on Judith Ewell

William & Mary Provost Peggy Agouris sent the following message to the campus community July 31, 2019. - Ed.

Dear colleagues,

I write to share the news that Judith Ewell, Newton Family Professor of History, Emerita, passed away after a long illness on July 29, 2019.  Professor Ewell joined the faculty of the Department of History in 1971 as Assistant Professor, was promoted to Associate Professor in 1977, and to Full Professor in 1984. She earned her A. B. in 1965 from Duke University and her Ph.D. in Latin American History in 1972 from the University of New Mexico.

For more than three decades, Professor Ewell was known for her deep and sincere commitment to William & Mary and to the Department of History, for her dedication to teaching, for her high standards of research and scholarship, and for her administrative skills. A specialist in Latin American history, she was a productive and prize-winning scholar.  She was the author of three monographs, a co-editor of three volumes, some twenty articles in refereed journals or collections, and some thirty-five invited talks or presentations at professional meetings.  Her books and articles garnered awards and recognition from the Organization of American States, the South Eastern Council of Latin American Studies, and the Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies.  She was a recognized authority on twentieth-century Venezuela in particular, and her history of Venezuela has long been considered the standard work on the contemporary period. Her eminence in the field was also acknowledged by her appointment as editor of the prestigious Latin American history journal, The Americas.  She was also the recipient of two Senior Fulbright Fellowships, one to Venezuela and the other to Ecuador. Further acknowledgement of her local and international standing in her field are the following awards given in her honor: the Judith Ewell Award, given annually by the Department of History to a talented graduate student engaged in transnational or comparative history; a fund established in her honor at the Charles Center in support of student research in Latin America; and the Judy Ewell Award for Best Publication on Women's History, given annually by the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies.

In governance, service, and administration at William & Mary, Professor Ewell’s contributions and record of accomplishments have been extensive and distinguished.  These range from chairing the International Studies and the Educational Policy Committees to serving on the Faculty Women’s Caucus, the Faculty Affairs Committee and the Faculty Assembly - to mention but a few of her many university responsibilities.  She served two three-year terms as chair of the History department – the department’s first female chair – and under her stewardship the department hired many outstanding new faculty, helping to redress a long-standing gender imbalance in the process. She was an extraordinary role model for women scholars. Professor Ewell also served for three years as the History department’s Director of Graduate Studies and helped strengthen the graduate program’s national standing. She was also at the forefront of envisioning and launching what is now our Global Studies Program, and showed faculty and students how to work in interdisciplinary ways long before this kind of work became popular. She received numerous honors and awards, including the Thomas Jefferson Award in 1988 and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award in 1989. Colleagues in the Department of History and the wider university speak fondly of her leadership and mentoring qualities, of her amazing energy and confidence, and of her personal generosity.

Her service to the academic profession extends well beyond the university, and includes her work on curricular assessment committees at Johns Hopkins and Wake Forest as well as on peer review panels for the selection of Fulbright awards and grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In addition to her various editorial positions, her contributions to the historical profession have been impressive, especially her leadership on the Executive Council of the Conference on Latin American History and on various regional councils for Latin American Studies.

She was committed to and loved William & Mary, but was also a Dukie through and through. She took biannual journeys with her former sorority sisters (the Duchesses) and during March Madness she was inconsolable if her Dukies let her down on the court. After retirement, she loved meeting and educating hundreds of cruise ship passengers as a guest lecturer on Latin American history. She was an extraordinary photographer – a love she turned to also after her retirement. Her Latin American art collection is headed to the Muscarelle, although her gifted photographs await a fitting platform. She will be missed.