UA Appoints New Summersell Chair and Director of Hudson Strode Program

From the September 2016 Desktop News The College of Arts and Sciences welcomes the new Charles Grayson Summersell Endowed Chair of Southern History and the new director of the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies.

Charles Grayson Summersell Endowed Chair of Southern History

Dr. Lesley Gordon

Dr. Lesley Gordon

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.”


Director of the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies

Dr. Michelle Dowd

Dr. Michelle Dowd

Early modern literary scholar Dr. Michelle M. Dowd has been named Hudson Strode Professor of English and the new director of The University of Alabama’s Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies.

The program, which began in the early 1990s, was established by the generous gift of Hudson Strode and his wife Thérèse in order to enhance the University’s teaching mission. Their generosity has provided enhanced stipends for students and allows the University to bring nationally and internationally recognized scholars to campus to participate in the biennial Strode seminars and the annual Strode lecture series.

It also provides funds for student travel and research, including support for students to attend workshops and seminars at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and has enabled the creation of the Shakespeare-on-Film Series and the staged reading series Improbable Fictions.

“The Strode Program is nationally and internationally well regarded for Renaissance studies,” Dowd said. “I’ve known about it since I was in graduate school, and when the position opened, I didn’t hesitate. There aren’t many departments or programs in the country that have a center like this.”

Dowd plans to continue the legacy of Dr. Sharon O’Dair, who retired earlier this year, by reaching out to the community and maintaining a high standard of scholarship and collaboration.

“My goal is to build on strengths that are already here,” Dowd said. “The program does a great job with outreach, and it has a wonderful reputation. Because the Strode program is primarily a graduate program, I also want to help students train for an academic career—and help them see beyond an academic career as well. I don’t want to limit their options by sticking to too narrow a model of training.”

Prior to coming to UA, Dowd worked at the University of North Carolina Greensboro for 12 years. She is particularly interested in Shakespearean drama and early modern women’s writing. In addition to authoring six books and more than a dozen articles and book chapters, she has also won multiple national awards and fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies.