Baylor Hosts Award-Winning Author, Cherry Award Finalist

Oct. 8, 2009

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Dr. Elliot West, author and Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, will present a lecture on "The West Before Lewis and Clark: Three Lives" at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in room 100 of Morrison Hall on the Baylor University campus.

This event, which is free and open to the public, is one of three outstanding lectures given by scholar/teachers from U.S. universities who have been selected as finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, the single largest award given to an individual for exceptional teaching.

The other finalists are Dr. Roger Rosenblatt, Distinguished Professor of English at Stony Brook University in New York, who presented his lecture on Monday, Oct. 5, and Dr. Edward B. Burger, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Gaudino Scholar at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., who will present his lecture on Monday, Oct. 26.

West will discuss the history behind Lewis and Clark, not as the "captains of discovery" but as lucky explorers who were in the American West at the right time, when the West was expanding from European Growth more than two and a half centuries earlier. West will tell stories of three persons - a Frenchman, an Osage Indian and a New Mexican - who discovered the West six generations before Lewis and Clark.

"I hope students will take from this lecture an understanding that the history of the American West is much older, wider and richer than we often think," West said.

The Cherry Award was created by Robert Foster Cherry, a 1929 Baylor graduate, who established the Cherry Award program to honor exceptional teachers and establish more academic opportunities for Baylor students. The first Robert Foster Cherry Award was given in 1991 and has since been awarded biennially.

"The Cherry Awards lectures provide an opportunity for undergraduate students to hear from the finest university professors, such as Dr. West, who is a specialist in the field of history," said Dr. Heidi Hornik, chair of the Robert Foster Cherry Awards committee and professor of art history at Baylor. "The intent is to bring professors from other universities to Baylor so students can academically benefit from those lectures."

The Cherry finalists each will receive $15,000, as well as $10,000 for each of their home departments. The winner of the Cherry Award, which will be announced in spring 2010, will receive an additional $200,000, as well as $25,000 for his home department.

"I commend Baylor for sponsoring such an extraordinary competition that rewards the most important work that happens on any university campus--helping students awaken more fully to the world around them and to what that world has been in the past," West said.

West received his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in 1967. He attended the University of Colorado, where he earned his master's degree in 1969 and doctorate in 1971.

West's research interests in the social and environmental history of the American West are featured in his national award-winning book, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado. Awards for The Contested Plains include the Caughey Prize from the Western History Association, Best Work of Research Non-Fiction by PEN Center USA West, the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, Best Historical Non-Fiction on the West by Western Writers of America and the Ray Allen Billington Prize from the Organization of American Historians.

West also has won awards for The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains, Growing Up With the Country: Childhood on the Far-Western Frontier and The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story.

As an accomplished history author, West also enjoys his role as an exceptional teacher and has received several awards for teaching, include the 2001 Charles and Nadine Baum Award as University Teacher of the Year at Arkansas and 1995 Arkansas Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

For more information, contact the Cherry Award office at (254) 710-2923 or visit

by Lillyan Baker, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

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