College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

History Faculty Accept University-Wide Awards

Four faculty members in the Department of History received university-wide awards for teaching and research in 2009-2010.


John Neff, Associate Professor of History

Bringing American history, particularly the Civil War era, alive in the classroom is John Neff’s passion.  That passion was recognized with the university-wide teaching award.

“His classes fill quickly because they are informative, engaging and thought provoking,” said one student.   Another said, “Dr. Neff is an extremely talented instructor who has a deep knowledge and passion for this subject. Each class feels like a conversation rather than a lecture.”

Neff said his goal is to provide students the opportunity to acquire skills and tools that will carry them far beyond his classroom.  “They come to the classroom ready to dive in, and that is a really wonderful thing,” he said. “I hope to get students engaged in seeking to understand the world around them, to be in a position to be savvy, curious and discerning.”

Neff was also named UM’s Humanities Teacher of the Year for 2009, which is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council.  As part of this honor, Neff gave a public lecture in October titled “Our Hearts Were Touched with Fire: The Memory of the Civil War.”




Charles Eagles, William F. Winter Professor of History

Charles Eagles is well known as a student mentor.  His outstanding commitment to students was recognized with the 2010 Frist Award, which recognizes those who provide extraordinary service to students.

A former student, who failed one of two history courses taken with Eagles, wrote: “Even though Dr. Eagles failed me in this class, he always went out of his way to speak to me when he saw me on campus or in town.  He would always stop and talk to me about what was going on in my life, my plans. He continually reminded me that I should be in the university, that I should finish and that my poor grade was no reflection on my potential or intelligence. He has always, to this day, made me feel that I was the most important student on campus.”

Eagles said that when Chancellor Jones called, he immediately thought he must be in trouble.

“When he told me about the award, I was completely surprised,” said Eagles. “I had never even thought about receiving such an honor for doing my ordinary work with students.”

2009 Faculty Achievement Award

Sheila Skemp, Clare Leslie Marquette Professor of American History

The Faculty Achievement Award recognizes outstanding performance in research, teaching, and service, all aspects of a professor’s career.  Sheila Skemp received this recognition in 2009.

“I find it to be a very humbling experience,” Skemp said. “When I look at the members of my own department and at other faculty members across the campus, I see any number of people who are just as deserving of this honor. We all are dedicated teachers, productive researchers and highly involved in service activities at both the local and national and, in some cases, international levels. If anything, it makes me want to work harder.”

Skemp was the first recipient of the Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1985 and continues to receive accolades from students for her teaching.  Her research has resulted in widely acclaimed books on Benjamin and William Franklin and more recently on Judith Sargent Murray.

“The publication of her most recent book on Judith Sargent Murray by one of the leading academic presses in America marks it as one of the most significant pieces of scholarship ever produced by a member of our department’s faculty,” said Joseph Ward, associate professor and chair of history.


2010 Distinguished Research Award

Charles Reagan Wilson, Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Chair of History and Professor of Southern Studies

Charles Wilson’s list of research achievements spans decades, continents and organizations, and was honored with a new recognition, the university-wide Distinguished Research Award.

“This award honors Dr. Wilson for his scholarly contributions and his role in anticipating, inspiring and facilitating a field of interdisciplinary research known as Southern Studies,” said Alice Clark, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “Dr. Wilson’s scholarship – Southern religion, memory and culture – has elevated observances of life in the South to an area of academic inquiry.”

Formerly director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Wilson is co-editor of the first important scholarly collection on religion during the Civil War, a revised edition of The Encyclopedia of Religion in the South and the forthcoming Mississippi Encyclopedia project. Wilson was also a primary scholar in the Religion and Region series and Southern Spaces online documentary project.

“I haven’t received other research awards, thus making this especially meaningful,” Wilson said. “Receiving this award is a humbling experience because there is so much excellent research going on across campus in so many departments and programs.”