Alumni Update: Robin Simonton Appears on Radio Show

Robin Simonton, Executive Director of the Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC, and graduate of EIU’s Historical Administration program, recently appeared on radio’s The Museum Life with Carol Bossert. During the show, which you can listen to here, Robin explains the history of cemeteries, their role in community building and the variety of innovative programming that they offer.

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Robin Simonton has been the Executive Director of Historic Oakwood Cemetery since November of 2011. She holds a BA in US History from the University of Hawaii and an MA in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University. Robin’s graduate school internship was with Jekyll Island State Historic Site off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia.  After she graduated from Eastern Illinois, she returned to Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines in Raleigh.  She served in various capacities there, but ended as the Program and Volunteer Services Executive at Girl Scouts — North Carolina Coastal Pines in 2011.  While there, she planned historic trips for the girls to participate in to Savannah, as well as developed local historic programming for the Girl Scouts.  She also created the event Monumental Fun at Historic Oakwood Cemetery for Girl Scouts to enjoy.


Robin Simonton on the grounds of Oakwood Cemetery with students from William Peace University (photo: Robin Simonton).

She left the Girl Scouts 5 years ago for her dream job and continues to develop educational programming for schools, seniors, church groups and universities at the Cemetery.

Robin wrote a chapter in the book Cemetery Tours and Programming: A Guide, by Rachel Wolgemuth in 2016.  She is co-authoring an Arcadia Publishing book on the Cemetery which will come out in 2017.

Robin and her husband Jeff live in Raleigh with their son, 6 year old Cullen. Contact Robin via email at


EIU’s Historical Administration Class of 2016-2017 Exhibit: A Question of History: Public History in Illinois

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From the desk of HA Class of 2016-2017:

Throughout the history of Illinois, the prominence of public history has ebbed and flowed, from communities coming together to save historic sites, to last years’ nine-month closing of the Illinois State Museum. Amidst the statewide budget crisis this closure has brought the topic of public history to the forefront of a national conversation. In an effort to raise awareness about the importance of public history, Eastern Illinois University’s (EIU) 2016-2017 Historical Administration class is planning the exhibit A Question of History: Public History in Illinois. This exhibit traces the role of the public and the historical institutions of Illinois to show how history was and continues to be vital to our cultural heritage and identity. The exhibit results from a partnership with the accredited Booth Library at EIU and utilizes the collections and expertise of historical institutions around the state. These include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois State Museum, and the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum.

The Historical Administration graduate class develops an exhibit every year as part of their graduate coursework, often in partnership with institutions such as the Booth Library. The Historical Administration Class of 2017 includes: Aaron Martin, Amanda Roberts, Brock Stafford, Cayla Wagner, Claire Eagle, Elizabeth Papp, Hailey Paige, Jessica Craig, Meagan Patterson, and Sara Mercado.

You can track our progress on Facebook, Instagram, and our Website.


BBC Radio 4 to Feature Dr. Foy this Thursday

On October 6th, as part of BBC Radio 4’s program “Britain’s Black Past,” Dr. Charles Foy will be featured in its episode “Sailors.” During the broadcast Dr. Foy will utilize his Black Mariner Database to illustrate how in the 18th century the Royal Navy was both a ‘taxi service to freedom’ for runaway slaves and how black sailors were always in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The broadcast will be available online shortly after its transmission at



Explaining One’s Research to the Public

From the desk of Dr. Charles Foy:

A basic responsibility of EIU faculty is to create knowledge. For historians, this typically takes the form of monographs published by university press or articles in academic journals. Unfortunately, the readership for these works is generally not extensive. The public’s exposure to history often is limited to the History Channel (Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler!). How to ensure a wider audience for our interesting scholarship? Eastern’s historians are engaging the public on a number of non-traditional and digital medium, including blogs, Twitter, and online essays.

Where can one find EIU history faculty’s informal writing? Here are some examples:

Twitter: Dr. Laughlin-Schultz, a historian of 19th century reform movements and women’s history regularly tweets on these issues, political matters and her new book project on the reformer Lucy Stone at


Dr. Newton Key tweets on 17th century British history at

Blogs: Short form essays are a handy means to quickly describe one’s research. The longest-standing blog by a EIU historian is Dr. Key’s Early Modern England blog at


Online Articles: Recently, a plethora of websites have been developed that seek to explain historical issues to the general public. One of these, Red Hooks Water Stories,, has undertaken to explain New York City’s maritime history to the public.


This Fall it will be publishing Dr. Charles Foy’s short essay, “Blacks on the New York Waterfront during the American Revolution.” This is essay is a condensed version of Dr. Foy’s recent scholarly article “The Royal Navy’s Employment of Black Mariners and Maritime Workers, 1754-1783,” published in the February 2016 edition of International Maritime History Journal.

Join us online!

Oct. 21, 2016: Annual History and Social Studies Teachers Conference

Please join us at an upcoming professional development event at Eastern Illinois University!  On October 21, 2016 we will have our annual History and Social Studies Teachers conference, and this year we will also offer a concurrent workshop from the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago. Nisan Chavkin did a session at our summer PD, and he will be reimbursing registration costs for teachers who attend his strand of workshops. For more information, please visit the conference webpage here.


To read about the opportunity for practicing secondary teachers to get your registration fee reimbursed and attend a special “Empowered Civics” strand of workshops, please click here, and click here to register for the conference.

Questions? Contact Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, Associate Professor of History & Social Science Teaching Coordinator,, 217-581-6362.

We hope to see you in October!


We Can and Will Prevail

From the desk of Dr. Nora Pat Small:

In going through some files last night in search of something else, I came across some reminiscences that my father wrote in February 1997 at the age of 87. I offer them here, in these very trying times, by way of thanks to all those who have worked, and continue to work so hard on behalf of EIU; I offer them to honor those who have fought for reform; and I offer them to remind us all, especially our students, that we can and will prevail.

“In September 1929 I quit my job and enrolled at Creighton University, having saved enough money for tuition for two years and possibly three. I had put some money in a bank savings account, and about $50 in a stock that my sister, Doris, seemed to think was a winner. She was working for a stock broker at that time. Late in October, she came home with the news that the market had crashed and the stock I had invested in had crashed also. While that represented a substantial loss, I didn’t worry too much about it because I still had the bank savings account. But, as dozens of banks were doing in those days, my bank closed its doors in November, leaving me with no money for tuition. At Christmas time, I got a job in the shipping department of the Omaha Crockery, a retail company that sold chinaware. Normally, my job kept me in the shipping department in the back of the store, but on this particular day I had something to do in the retail section of the store, and ran into the man I had worked for at the Omaha News Co. He asked if I could arrange my schedule at Creighton so I could work in the afternoons at the Omaha News Co. The pay would be $10 a week for a half-day. I assured him I could, and when the new semester started in January, 1930, I would leave Creighton at noon, walk to the Omaha News Co., about a mile and a half away, eat the lunch my mother made for me, and go to work.


Kermit Dallas Small, High School Graduation 1928

“I continued to carry a full schedule at Creighton, and in September, 1932, left my job and hitch-hiked to Columbia, Mo., and enrolled in the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. This was my senior year, and I wanted a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.”

He graduated in 1933 with that journalism degree and went on to work for papers in Omaha and Chicago.

History Professor Presents at Symposium

Bailey Young, Distinguished Professor of History, was one of five international scholars invited to present a paper on October 10, 2015 a Memorial Symposium for Fredric L. Cheyette: “Land, Law and Lordship in Medieval France” held at Amherst College (Amherst, MA), co-sponsored by the Trustees of Amherst College, the History Department, and the Harvard Interdisciplinary Committee on Medieval Studies.

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Professor Young’s presentation, entitled “Fred and Archaeology” was focused on Fred’s last scholarly project, an investigation of the possible role of climate change into the fall of the Roman Empire and the development of a distinctive landscape and economy in Medieval Europe that foreshadowed the emergence of the modern world.  One of America’s most distinguished medieval scholars, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy and Professor of History at Amherst 1963-2005, Cheyette had invited Young’s collaboration in assessing recent archaeological evidence in France over the past decade and, when too weakened by cancer to continue, turned over to him his notes with an invitation to carry it on.

The Medieval Academy of America has accepted Dr. Young’s proposal to include a session featuring three prominent French medieval archaeologists presenting recent developments in environmental archaeology at the its upcoming Annual Meeting to be held in Boston in February, 2016.