The College of Liberal Arts at Temple University

A Tribute to Richard Immerman

On May 4th and 5th 2017, colleagues from far and wide and current and former graduate students gathered on Temple’s campus to celebrate the career of CENFAD’s director Dr. Richard Immerman. Over the course of this two-day event, co-organized by Dr. Petra Goedde, and 2016-17 Davis Fellow Brian McNamara, attendees heard stirring tributes to Dr. Immerman’s impact as a scholar, teacher, and mentor of graduate students.

We began on the afternoon of May 4th, with the final CENFAD colloquium talk of the 2016-17 academic year. In “Stalin’s Purges and Kennan’s Struggle For Reason,” Dr. Frank Costigliola of the University of Connecticut presented part of his ongoing book project on George Kennan, which employs the methodology of reading for emotion. Dr. Costigliola gave a compelling talk which forced all listeners to consider Kennan beyond his established historical image as a realist, and to consider how to read sources deeply for meanings beyond the literal.

(above: Dr. Frank Costigliola presents on "Stalin's Purges and Kennan's Struggle for Reason")

On Friday, graduate student research presentations kicked off with a panel on Intelligence and Security, chaired by Dr. David Farber, the Roy Roberts Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Kansas. Dr. Bob Kodosky of West Chester University reminded us of the different cultural assumptions that have helped to shape US psychological operations, while Dr. John McNay of the University of Cincinnati – Blue Ash detailed the process by which three US presidents -- Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy -- decided against America's going to war. Dr. David Rezelman of Norfolk Academy reminded us of the important of contingency by dissecting what Americans knew about Nazi nuclear capabilities and when, and Dr. Tim Sayle of the University of Toronto gave a timely talk on America’s relationship to NATO since the end of the Cold War.

(above: attendees listen to the day's presentations)

The second panel, on Diplomacy and Statecraft, saw Dr. George Herring, Alumni Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Kentucky, take over chairing duties. Dr. Bill Ashbaugh of SUNY-Oneonta examined the links between the Hull Note, US-Japanese relations, and Japanese aggression in China, whereas Dr. Ginger Davis of Norwich University showed attendees the importance of using foreign language sources in her presentation on North Vietnamese perceptions of the United States. Dr. Angelo Repousis and Dr. Wendy Wong Schirmer, both of Temple University, reminded us that Dr. Immerman worked with graduate students whose interests spanned the chronological as well as geographical gamut, with their talks on missionary activities in nineteenth century Greece, and the origins of the Logan Act in 1799.

(above: everyone enjoys lunch!)

After a resplendent lunch, sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts’ Development Office, we reconvened with a panel on Transnational Relations, chaired by Dr. Andy Rotter, the Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Colgate University. All four presenters gave talks arising from their soon-to-be-published book projects – all arising from dissertations directed by Dr. Immerman. Dr. Drew McKevitt of Louisiana Tech examined the challenges of unionization in midwestern Toyota factories, while Dr. David Lee of Temple University presented some conclusions on the relationship between the United States, Nicaragua, and attempts at modernization. Dr. Kelly Shannon of Florida Atlantic University and Dr. Matt Shannon of Emory and Henry College both presented on Iran, with a focus on human rights and international education, respectively. It has been a thrill to see all four of these projects develop.

(above: Dr. Immerman listens as Dr. David Farber recalls his flexibility as a graduate supervisor)

The final panel of the day was for reflections. Chaired by Dr. Beth Bailey, the Foundation Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Kansas, the panel featured both formal, deeply emotional talks, and time for audience reflection. Dr. David Zierler of the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian, recalled not only his time working with Dr. Immerman at Temple, but also Dr. Immerman’s strong leadership on the State Department’s Historical Advisory Committee. Dr. Bobby Wintermute of Queen’s College – CUNY, meanwhile, recalled how Dr. Immerman’s personal support remained unwavering throughout the deeply personal and professional challenges of graduate school, and life. Comments from the audience reminded those in attendance of Dr. Immerman’s openness and flexibility as a graduate advisor, his development and mentorship of junior faculty, his administrative acumen, and, above all, his vibrant personality and collegial nature.

(above: Dr. Melvyn Leffler salutes Dr. Immerman's career)

Dr. Melvyn Leffler, the Edward Stettinius Professor of History at the University of Virginia, then took the floor to offer some closing remarks on Dr. Immerman’s career. Noting first that he had foresworn revenge some twenty-five years earlier for Dr. Immerman’s reader’s report on A Preponderance of Power, Dr. Leffler demurred such revenge – at least for the day – before deliver a stirring summation of Dr. Immerman’s career. Noting that Dr. Immerman has remained engaged with the abiding question of why a country with aspirational ideals so often falls short of them in its international relations, Dr. Leffler detailed both the breadth and depth of Dr. Immerman’s scholarship, focusing especially on his writing on Eisenhower-era diplomacy, and the history of intelligence. It was a fitting end to a well-deserved celebration.

A number of organizations within the greater Temple University community helped to sponsor this event. Those groups include the Department of History, the Global Studies Program, the Center for the Humanities, the College of Liberal Arts’ Development Office, and the Graduate School. We graciously acknowledge their support in making this even happen.

CENFAD must also thank Maggie Cogswell, Cori Haas, and Djuna Witherspoon for their administrative expertise, as well as the numerous graduate students – including Steve Hausmann, Ariel Natalo-Lifton, Eric Perinovic, Sarah Robey, and Silke Zoller – who helped to set-up or take-down our events.

Finally, and most importantly, CENFAD would like to thank all of the attendees of the symposium who traveled from far and wide to commemorate Dr. Immerman, most especially those who are current and former graduate students with ties to Dr. Immerman. In addition to the above-mentioned presenters, this list includes: Dr. Chris DeRosa, Manna Duah, Dr. Tom English, Dr. Marc Frey, Phil Gibbon, Dr. Carly Goodman, Dr. Larry Kessler, Dr. Andrew Lippert, Brian McNamara, Kaete O'Connell, Dr. Abby Perkiss, Thomas Reinstein, Dr. Sarah Robey, John Worsencroft, and Silke Zoller.