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Archive for Sunday, December 1, 2002

published works make KU professor proud

December 1, 2002

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During his 35-year career as a historian, Bill Tuttle has written six books covering race relations, family relationships and other foundations of the changing American experience.

Now, in less than a year, five of his former students are catching up.

The new authors have managed to transform the doctoral dissertations they researched, wrote and defended on Mount Oread into hardcover books stocked on bookstore shelves this holiday season.

And Tuttle, like any proud father, couldnâÂÂt be more pleased.

âÂÂWeâÂÂre always thinking about immortality,â said Tuttle, a professor of American studies at Kansas University. âÂÂFor writers, itâÂÂs the books we write; they will live on. I think, for teachers, thereâÂÂs also our students and the books they write.

âÂÂI donâÂÂt have any sort of a death wish, but I think we all consider our immortality: WhatâÂÂs it all mean, and, once weâÂÂre all gone, will it make any difference? I think this does help me to think that maybe I made a difference.âÂÂ

Under the tutelage of Tuttle and assisted by other KU faculty members, the five graduate students delved into the recesses of American history to create compilations ripe for research, study and interpretation for years to come:

⢠âÂÂBlack Manhood on the Silent Screen,â by Gerald R. Butters Jr., exposing the interpretations of blacks in America through the lenses of black filmmakers.

⢠âÂÂDissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72,â by Gretchen Cassel Eick, burrowing into the underpinnings of a Midwest sit-in whose departure from those in the deep South largely was limited to geography, not sociology.

⢠âÂÂQuacks & Crusaders,â by Eric S. Juhnke, examining three early propagators of alternative medicine âÂÂ:quot; including the Kansan whose goat-gland transplants in the early 20th century would be supplanted today by Viagra âÂÂ:quot; and their populist road shows.

⢠âÂÂRacial Borders: Black Soldiers along the Rio Grande,â by James N. Leiker, looking at the lives and times of black soldiers posted along the Rio Grande River, where the buffalo soldiers lived among a vast array of races.

⢠âÂÂThis is America? The Sixties in Lawrence, Kansas,â by Rusty L. Monhollon, recounting the tumultuous decade through the actions and beliefs of civil rights activists, antiwar demonstrators, hippies and feminists alongside those of conservatives and anti-Communists.

âÂÂ'He knows ... what to doâÂÂ

Several of the first-time authors said it should be no surprise that Tuttle was behind their efforts.

With TuttleâÂÂs own works filled with exhaustive research, extensive interviews and lively writing, they said, itâÂÂs no wonder some of the publishing prowess managed to rub off on them.

Juhnke, whose first crack at quacks came during his masterâÂÂs thesis at the University of Northern Iowa, didnâÂÂt think his years of work would ever meet a publisherâÂÂs eyes.

Then he met the man who would become a helpful critic, constant facilitator and friend.

âÂÂThere is no way I could have gotten my dissertation published without Bill Tuttle,â Juhnke said last week from Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa, where he is an assistant professor of history. âÂÂWhen I came to the University of Kansas âÂÂ: I wanted to drop the subject, because I felt it was going nowhere. I just didnâÂÂt quite know how to conceptualize the project.âÂÂ

Enter Tuttle. The professor not only agreed with JuhnkeâÂÂs assertion âÂÂ:quot; that the quack âÂÂdoctorsâ were political crusaders as much as snake-oil salesmen âÂÂ:quot; but also turned him on to writings and research that helped make the vision a clear reality.

âÂÂWhen you write your dissertation, you hope itâÂÂll be a book,â Juhnke said. âÂÂThatâÂÂs a testimony to Tuttle: To conceptualize our topics so that theyâÂÂll be attractive to publishers and to make our dissertations flexible enough to get them done.

âÂÂHeâÂÂs published a number of books. He knows what we need to do.âÂÂ

TuttleâÂÂs titles include âÂÂRace Riotâ and âÂÂDaddyâÂÂs Gone to War,â both well-known among contemporary U.S. history texts. HeâÂÂs also been a collaborator on âÂÂPeople and a Nation,â now in its sixth edition, a history text used by millions of college students since its first publication in 1982.

âÂÂ'Activeâ advice

Aside from the usual hard work âÂÂ:quot; digging out primary sources, conducting first-hand interviews, immersing oneself in a topic that can be focused for the highest interest âÂÂ:quot; Tuttle preaches that even the most basic of writing techniques can make the biggest difference.

âÂÂActive voice,â he said, laughing. âÂÂAlways write in active voice.âÂÂ

Monhollon, whose studies of Lawrence in the âÂÂ60s started more than a decade ago, welcomed TuttleâÂÂs voluminous markings of red pen on early drafts of his doctoral dissertation.

But such work might never have blossomed had Tuttle not noticed early work in MonhollonâÂÂs first graduate-level history class on Mount Oread, then helped nourish the budding historianâÂÂs thirst for knowledge.

âÂÂHe was persistent in pushing me to be a better writer and to ask more of my sources and to constantly think and rethink things, but most of all it was his confidence,â said Monhollon, now an assistant professor of history at Hood College in Frederick, Md. âÂÂHe saw a potential I didnâÂÂt know I had in myself. He recognized something in me - latent, perhaps - that he helped nurture and bring to full flower.âÂÂ

Tuttle keeps copies of all five books on an end table in the living room of his home in Old West Lawrence. All include some written form of thanks for the professor who helped get the words from notebook scribblings to textbook printings.

âÂÂIâÂÂm not sure theyâÂÂll ever be best-sellers, but you never know,â Tuttle said. âÂÂTheir real contribution is to our fount of knowledge. These really are great contributions.âÂÂ

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