Award-winning writer and educator Elizabeth Fenn will be the keynote speaker for the annual William A. Kinnison Endowed Lecture in History that will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at Bayley Auditorium in the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center as the 2018-2019 Wittenberg Series continues. Her address is titled “Sacagawea’s Capture and the History of the Early West.”
Fenn received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in History for her book Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People, which the judges described as “an engrossing, original narrative showing the Mandans, a Native American tribe in the Dakotas, as a people with a history.”
Detailing the rise and fall of the Mandan Indians, the book also won the 2015 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, the 2015 Colorado Book Award in History, the 2015 Albert J. Beveridge Award, and the 2015 Caroline Bancroft History Prize.
Fenn is the Walter and Lucienne Driskill Professor of Western American History at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she focuses her work on epidemic disease, Native American history, and environmental history of the early American West, but she followed a non-traditional path to her career as a scholar.
After completing doctoral coursework at Yale University, she took an eight-year hiatus from academia to work as an auto mechanic before being inspired to pursue a new dissertation topic. The result was Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, which explores the threat of smallpox in the context of the American Revolution and earned the Cox Book Prize in 2004.
Published in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the book’s analysis of smallpox as a means of biological warfare caught the attention of the media, and Fenn was interviewed on CNN, the History Channel, Nightline, and National Public Radio.
Fenn is also the co-author, with Peter H. Wood, of Natives and Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina Before 1770. In September 2018, she was named a Distinguished Professor by the Regents of the University of Colorado. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder in 2012, she taught at Duke University and George Washington University.
Fenn received her bachelor’s degree in history from Duke and her doctorate from Yale. She lives in Longmont, Colorado, and is currently working on a biography of Sacagawea.
Now in its 36th year, the Wittenberg Series brings distinguished lecturers and performing artists of national and international prominence to the Wittenberg campus and Springfield community. To make special arrangements, request a Series poster, or become a friend of the Wittenberg Series, contact Lisa Watson at WatsonL4@wittenberg.edu. All Wittenberg Series events are free and open to the public. Doors open 30 minutes prior to the beginning of each lecture or performance. Below are further details related to this year’s Series.
2018-2019 Wittenberg Series Events:
Wednesday, March 27, 2019: IBM Endowed Lecture in the Sciences, 7:30 p.m., Bayley Auditorium, featuring John Dovidio, author, Yale psychology professor, and leading researcher on aversive racism. Colloquium, 4 p.m., Bayley Auditorium.
For more information on the Wittenberg Series, click here.