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Roy T. Wortman

Distinguished Professor of History, Kenyon College


Roy T. Wortman | Distinguished Professor of History-Emeritus, Kenyon CollegeRoy T. Wortman teaches in the history department at Kenyon College. His PhD was earned in history at The Ohio State University, where he worked under the mentorship of Dr. Robert H. Bremner. Among his course offerings over the decades have been:

  • US history,
  • Liberalism, Radicalism, and Conservatism in American History,
  • US Civilization: History through Literature,
  • American Native Indian History, and,
  • Seminars on, among other topics, Liberalism in the West — Theory and Practice; labor history, dissenting movements, and Native Voices: North American Indian Life and Culture through Native and Metis Autobiography, History, and Film.

His publications are focused, while his classroom teaching is broad-based, making background connections between Europe and America prior to delving into specific US subjects: that is, historical background and baggage, (however invisible in today’s era of spectacle and byte) do matter! So too, critical, reflective reading and writing count for much, especially in the Age of Spin and Smart Phone.

Prof Wortman held fellowships and grants from, among others, the National Endowment for the Humanities; Canadian Embassy Fellow and Fulbright Foundation (he twice taught in the Indian Studies department, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College); Newberry Library Humanities seminar; Telluride seminar; Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Archives; Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship, and later Woodrow Wilson Foundation Teaching Fellowship. He was awarded a research grant from the Ohio Farmers Union, and served as humanities advisor to a Farmers Union family in The American Farm Project.

His passion is (and always has been) teaching and helping develop the joy of discovery, analytic skills, and even at times self-discovery in students. Prof Wortman has for years been concerned about academic “groupthink”, intrusions into liberty of conscience and expression, and subtle (and no so subtle), soft- core authoritarianism which debases a liberal arts education. That said, he recognizes that there are legions of teachers in the United States who remain true to the art of teaching. Says he, “Academic ‘scramblers’ abound. I first heard the term from a great teacher who had a mischievous twinkle in his eyes about academic self-promotion types. Dr. Robert H Bremner–eternal glory to him and so many other wonderful professors who came of age in the Great Depression and World War Two–had a knack for ‘turning a phrase.’ There is nothing wrong and everything right with academic entrepreneurs in the academe, provided they are ethical and scamless! There are legions of superb professors who don’t shrilly advertise themselves or seek center stage: theirs is the daily pick-and-shovel drudge work performed with proficiency, frustration, sweat, and joy.

He is a reservist veteran of nine years’ service. He and his wife Barbara have two daughters as well as grandchildren. After a long time in The Academy, he still possesses a sense of wonderment about academic hubris, folly, and those who bathe in the glories of their own egos. Finally, he is cautious about the concentration of power in public or private spheres, and does not take for granted the Liberal Tradition and individual rights.

In 2001, he was the recipient of an endowed Chair in History by Kenyon College. The chair was funded by a large number of former students, all of whom were positively impacted by his total commitment to teaching. As Jack Webb used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”