Aztec Codex

Emeriti Faculty


Lawrence Baron
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison
1988-2012: European and Jewish History
Email: [email protected]

Francis M. Bartholomew, Jr.
Ph.D., Princeton University
1967-2001: History of the Soviet Union

William Cheek
Ph.D., University of Virginia
1968-2004: U.S. History

David Christian
D.Phil., Oxford University
2001-2008: World History
Email: [email protected]

Paochin Chu
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
1967-2001: History of China

Elizabeth Cobbs
Ph.D., Stanford University
1998-2015: U.S. Foreign Relations Dwight Stanford Chair
Email: [email protected] 

Stephen Colston
1977-2014: Public History, U.S. Southwest
Email: [email protected]

Thomas R. Cox
Ph.D., University of Oregon
1967-1996: Environmental History

Roger L. Cunniff
Ph.D., University of Texas
1967-2000: History of Latin America

Thomas Davies, Jr.
Ph.D., University of New Mexico
1968-2001: History of Latin America

David V. DuFault
Ph.D., University of Oregon
1962-1999: History of Asia

Ross Dunn
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison
1968-2003: Africa, Islam and World
Email: [email protected]


Sarah S. Elkind
Ph.D., University of Michigan
2000-2021: Environmental, Urban and Political History of the United States
Email: [email protected]

Joanne Ferraro
Albert W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of History
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
1985-2016; 2016-2021: Renaissance and Early Modern Europe
Email: [email protected]

Robert Filner
Ph.D., Cornell University
1970-1992: U.S. History

Philip F. Flemion
Ph.D., University of Florida
1968-1998: History of Latin America

Charles Hamilton
Ph.D., Cornell University
1974-2001: Greek and Roman History

William F. Hanchett
Ph.D., UC, Berkeley
1956-1987: U.S. History, Lincoln Scholar

Waldo Heinrichs
Ph.D., Harvard University
1991-1996: U.S. Foreign Relations Dwight Stanford Chair

Neil Heyman
Ph.D., Stanford University
1969-202: European History

Oddvar Hoidal
Ph.D., University of Southern California
1967-2003: Scandinavian History
Email: [email protected]

Howard Kushner
Ph.D., Cornell University
1980-2002: History of Medicine & Disease
Email: [email protected]

Farid Mahdavi
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison
1990-2020: Islam, Middle East and World
Email: [email protected]

Harry McDean
Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles
1971-2003: U.S. History
Email:[email protected]

Nelson F. Norman
Ph.D., University of Illinois
1960-1983: History of Europe

Albert C. O’Brien
Ph.D., University of Notre Dame
1965-2000: Italian History

Charles D. Smith, Jr.
Ph.D., University of Michigan
1967-1992: History of Middle East

Ray T. Smith, Jr.
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
1964-1996: Asian History

Raymond G. Starr
Ph.D., University of Texas
1964-1999: U.S. History

Francis N. Stites
Ph.D., Indiana University
1968-2000: U.S. History

Jess L. Stoddart
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
1966-1998: Tudor-Stuart History

Douglas H. Strong
Ph.D., Syracuse University
1964-1990: U.S. Environmental History

Pershing Vartanian
Ph.D., University of Michigan
1968-2001: U.S. Intellectual History

Charles Richard Webb
Ph.D., Harvard University
1949-1972: European History

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Harry McDean

by Ed Beasley, Professor Emeritus of History

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have to announce that Harry McDean, Professor Emeritus of History and former chair of the department, passed away on May 1st after a short illness. A native of Texas, he took his PhD from UCLA in 1969 and became Assistant Professor of History at San Diego State College in 1971. Harry taught American history, publishing on the history of US agriculture and economics. In addition to his courses in the department, for a number of years he taught the history of business in what is now the Fowler College of Business. Harry served as chair of the history department from 1998 to 2003, when he became Professor Emeritus. He was a keen advocate for his colleagues, hiring a new generation of tenured faculty and giving lecturers full slates of classes and uncrowded office space. 

Harry is remembered by colleagues and administrators alike for his folksy, down-to-earth story-telling, the glint in his eye, and how he could puncture pretension –not least with bursts of unexpected laughter in meetings – all the while advancing the mission statement of the department. Harry went out of his way to welcome colleagues to San Diego, and he stayed involved in the lives of colleagues and staff, from attending baby showers to attending children's graduations. And he was an important mentor for faculty hired even well after he had retired. Off campus, he was a long-distance runner and a hunter. Another hobby was investing in the stock market, which he began doing on his professor's salary. A long-time resident of Del Mar, he also had property on the Colorado River, where he shelved part of his library in a converted shipping container. He is survived by his wife Patty, with whom he has travelled the world for many years. Harry and Patty were keen supporters of SDSU athletics, attending games at home and away. Harry was excited to attend the Mountain West Basketball tournament in Las Vegas in early March and watch the Aztecs win the title. Harry will be missed.

In Memoriam: Tom Davies
by Brian Loveman, Professor Emeritus of Political Science

Tom DaviesTom was in the history department from 1968 until 2001, specializing in Latin American History. He also chaired the Latin American Studies Program for many years and was the Director of the Center for Latin American Studies. He mentored several generations of first-in-family to attend a university students -- and maintained contact with many of them until his death. He also mentored military officers in the Latin American Studies' masters degree program, especially from the Army Foreign Area Officers Program (FAO). He was a champion of students and student rights, before that was common on university campuses. 

He wrote and co-authored several books including Indian Integration in Peru: A Half Century of Experience 1900-1948, The Politics of Antipolitics: The Military in Latin America, Che Guevara, Guerilla Warfare (3rd edition, 1997). On retirement, he donated hundreds of books from his private collection to the SDSU Library. After moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Adele, he served as an expert witness in hundreds of cases filed at the Board of Immigration Appeals on behalf of Latin American immigrants seeking asylum. Tom and Adele, donated their archives in this field to the SDSU Library, creating a newly digitized research source, The Papers of Thomas M. Davies, Jr.

The celebration of Tom's life was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 5, 2019, at St Michael and All Angels Epsicopal Church. The Church supports the immigrant sanctuaries in Albuquerque; partners with other faith-based and non-profit organizations to welcome and assist asylum-seekers in the city; and is an Advocating Congregation of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of New Mexico. It also supports a food pantry. Tom spent much of his time in retirement advocating for immigrant rights, particularly LGBT applicants for asylum. He requested, in lieu of flowers at the celebration of his life, donations to the food pantry at the Church and to three organizations: Immigration Equality, 40 Exchange Pl Ste 1300, New York City, NY 10005; New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, PO Box 7040, Albuquerque, NM 87194; New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, PO Box 4067, Albuquerque, NM 87196.

A Friend for Fifty Years

I think all of Myron Greene’s friends knew him as “Mike” until several years ago, when he asked us to address him as “Myron.” I was fine with that, though I slipped up several times before I fully retrained myself. I never felt too badly about that because I knew Myron as “Mike” for most of the fifty years we were friends. We both came to what was then San Diego State College, in 1968. That first year he and I shared a large office with Tom Davies and Juan Gómez-Quiñones. Myron and Tom, who made his career at SDSU, also became good friends. (Juan, however, soon deserted us for the greener pastures of Westwood.)

I arrived at the college with my doctorate completed—just in time to start teaching. Myron was ABD from Indiana University, and for the next several years he worked to finish his dissertation in modern Czech history. The problem, or so it seemed to me, was that Myron was one of the most gregarious people I have ever known. When faced with the choice of staying home to write and heading out for dinner with friends, he rarely hesitated. He was also a voracious reader, though not necessarily on Eastern European history. I think he found it tough to sit in front of a hot, smoking typewriter, pounding out the chapters when there were so many pals, and almost always a girlfriend, to hang out with.

After six years it became clear that Myron could not be tenured. Several young historians came to San Diego State between 1967 and 1969 as ABDs, and others besides Myron never finished up and eventually left town. Myron, however, stayed on for decades, on and off, as an adjunct professor. For several years, he also taught history to credit-seeking sailors on naval ships. He saw much of the world that way. He had a reputation at SDSU as a hard-ass European history and Western Civ instructor but also a good one, and he made many lasting friendships with former students.

I always enjoyed spending time with Myron. He was remarkably knowledgeable and up-to-date, on classical music, opera, literature, political commentary, news, and sports. When I was a young, reasonably fit assistant professor, I joined the Greene Team for a couple of years to play outdoor basketball on campus. Myron was tall and intimidating on the court and made baskets with ease. (As for me, I can’t recall that I made any.)  Myron  had a sharp, ironic, acerbic sense of humor, brought to California from his natal New York City.

After Jeanne and I moved to Los Angeles in 2012, I didn’t see him often, though we talked on the phone occasionally, usually for an hour or more. Several times he proposed that we meet him for lunch at a halfway point, in Oceanside or San Clemente. That plan never worked out. Myron was always ready to go out for breakfast at some newly discovered eatery. He and I had breakfast in La Mesa not many months before his passing.  He was in fine conversational form despite chronic trouble with his legs and other ailments. Even since his passing, I find myself thinking, “Oh, I should call Myron.” I miss him, and I wish I could pick up the phone.

In Memoriam:  Albert C. O’Brien

February 2021

Al O'BrienOur former colleague Al O’Brien passed away recently.  Between 1965 and 2000, he was a pillar of the History Department. When I started teaching at SDSU in 1988, there were 37 tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the department, considerably more than the current number of 21. Most of them belonged to a group hired between the mid-Sixties and mid-Seventies when San Diego State transitioned from being a state college to a university.  I came here in the middle of my career to serve as the director of the Lipinsky Institute for Judaic Studies and Nasatir Chair in Modern Jewish History.  I chronologically did not fit in with the older cohort of department faculty members or the younger ones hired after 1980. I will always be grateful to Al for his collegiality which manifested itself by welcoming me into his friendship circle and particularly the daily lunch roundtable it held in the Faculty Dining Club.

Since my expertise was Holocaust history, many people in the campus and San Diego community assumed that I had originated the Holocaust survey course that is still taught as History 440.  Actually Al deserves the credit for it because it was a logical outgrowth of both his academic expertise as a historian of fascist Italy and his progressive commitments as a liberal Catholic.  His research focused on the negotiations between the Vatican and Mussolini’s regime to secure the sovereignty of Vatican City and preservation of Catholic youth associations that culminated in the signing of the Lateran Treaty of 1929. 

Al was acutely aware that by entering into this accord the Holy See lent legitimacy to Mussolini’s government and paved the way for the pragmatic compromises Pope Pius XII subsequently made to protect the Church as an institution and its adherents from persecution, the rationale for his public silence about Hitler’s attempt to exterminate European Jewry. I spent many hours in Al’s office across the hall from mine in the Adams Humanities Building conversing with him about the inadequate response of the Vatican to the plight of the Jews during World War II as well as about other current debates over Holocaust historiography. 

Al’s concern over ethical issues was never consigned only to the past. When we weren’t discussing the Holocaust in his office and during lunches, we were talking about books we had recently read, contemporary politics, and the latest movies and plays in San Diego’s theatres. I regret not having kept in touch as much as I should have after he retired missing the companionship, intellectual curiosity, and kindness that he exuded. 

Laurie Baron

When I joined the SDSU History Department in the fall of 1984, I became the second woman in a department of 41 faculty and the only untenured member.  There was a pronounced generational as well as gender gap!  With Al I experienced neither.  I remember him warmly as one of the nicest colleagues I have ever had.  I was fortunate to work with him for sixteen years, and the professional and personal relationship endured for some time after that.  Among the things I appreciated about Al was his service to the Department.  In my own case, as an historian of Renaissance and early modern Italian History, Al continually served on my personnel review committees. Undertaking the most time-consuming of tasks, he carefully read all of my scholarship and gave me valuable feedback.  Chatting about Italy, from its medieval roots to its modern-day idiosyncrasies was among the most enjoyable activities we shared together in the halls of the Adams Humanities Building.  Al, and his lovely wife Mary, were present at just about all the celebrations associated of my developing career, from department parties  recognizing teaching awards and newly published books.  After he retired he continued to attend my community presentations.  I was sad to see him retire in 2000.  As he was preparing to leave he teased me with a chuckle, saying:  ‘You are going to be left with a lot of service as we older folks retire.’  Indeed his departure created a gap, but thankfully it has been filled by new and energetic faculty since then.  In closing I would like to comment about how moved I was to hear his daughters speak about their dad in glowing terms at Al’s memorial and to see all the photographs of him as a caring husband, father, and grandfather.  Al was a kind human being and valuable member of the SDSU History Department.

Joanne M. Ferraro

Thank you, Joanne and Laurie, for providing a space for us to reflect on Al's impact on the campus and in our lives.  Many of you may not know this, but from 1988-1994, I was in the middle of my career in higher education, student affairs. I was the Director of New Student Orientation at SDSU working in the then Student Resource Center. It was in this capacity that I first met Al O'Brien who participated in orientation programs by meeting with new students and helping me train CAL student orientation leaders. Al was a kind, generous, and supportive colleague whose guidance I sought when we initiated the inaugural Integrated Curriculum, Freshman Success Programs and the Maya Hall Living/Learning Center. Al supported our vision for trying to create small college experiences for students; he was generous with his time, feedback, and support to our office and to me, personally. In fact, those conversations with Al were the reason I decided to start a MA program in European History while working full-time in student affairs. Al's encouragement and direction put me in contact with Joanne Ferraro, Ross Dunn, Bill Cheek, Laurie Baron and Elizabeth Colwill who continued to mentor and encourage me to pursue a Ph.D. in European History at UCSD beginning in 1999. He made a difference to me and to undergraduate students at SDSU.

With fond memories, 
Heidi Keller-Lapp

I feel the most profound grief upon receiving this news of the passing of Dr. Albert O'Brien.  I knew him as a graduate student. In the early 1990s, I attended his course in modern Italian history. It was one of the most intellectually rewarding experiences of my life. He taught us so much; I still draw upon those lectures to this day. His gentle  sense of humor and warm personality were engaging. He was a model of the  caring and giving teacher. His recommendation was among those that  resulted in my being given the honor of the History Department's Graduate Student of the Year Award in 1993. Even more important, it was his enthusiastic suggestion, along with that of my lecturer in European History, Myron Greene, that convinced the former department chairman Harry McDean to hire me to teach our survey courses in Western Civilization. Not only did I have the pleasure of sharing my interests with the next generation of students, but the extra income allowed me to buy my house and to travel extensively over the years. I owe him so much. I asked Harry to convey my thanks and gratitude to him during these past years. 

Addio, Dottore. Grazie per tutto. I miss you. 
Edward Di Bella

I started working in the department when I was 33 years old.  At that time my sons were 3, 5 and 7.  Throughout the years I sometimes needed to bring them to work due to babysitting issues and school closing issues and I would let them play in the atrium on the 4th floor of Adams Humanities.  Al’s office window faced the Atrium.  He would take a break and go outside and play with them with their GI Joes and toy soldiers. He also told them stories.  I would sometimes just watch them so as not to disturb the loving grandfather like interaction. He was a very sweet man and an all around good person. 

Adriana Putko

I completely concur with Joanne and Laurie: Al O'Brien was a kind and generous colleague who welcomed newcomers to a somewhat formidable department in the late 1980s. I will remember him best for his service to generations of undergraduates as History and Social Science Advisor. His office in AH was across from mine, and the number of History and Social Science majors who visited him each day was truly remarkable. It astounded me that Al never seemed to tire of answering the same questions patiently and fully. He provided the warmth and personal attention that our large number of majors craved, and he was always ready to talk with them about their interests or career choices. His spirit was missed upon his retirement, but I am glad to know that he had so many years after retirement to enjoy his wonderful family.

Eve Kornfeld

Yes, Al was a great mentor--to new faculty members even late in his career in the late 90s, when I arrived at SDSU.  He retired a couple of years after I was hired, but he made it a point to offer help to me to get settled in, and he took the time to get to know me and my family.  He shared with me one of his favorite spots in San Diego, with a picnic lunch at Shelter Island, where I first met his wife Mary and his daughter Jen.  Shelter Island is still one of my favorite spots.  In the years since his retirement, I have been lucky enough to get together from time to time for dinners with Al and Mary at the home of a mutual friend, and I remained appreciative of his warmth and sense of good humor.

Matt Kuefler


I also recall Al O'Brien's warmth and generosity upon my arrival at SDSU in 1996. He was among a core of people who helped me feel that I could establish a home here. I remember his commitment to San Diego's future teachers and the passion that he conveyed to me on this point when I was a newcomer to the city. I also recall his help and his patient explanations as a colleague as we undertook to update the dept's curriculum. And of course I can still hear his rich New England accent in my mind's ear. 

May he rest in peace. 
Andy Wiese

I want to add my voice with other members of the History Department in remembrance of the life and contributions of Al O’brien. The word that comes to mind to describe Al is decency. I first met Al when I came to SDSU in 1979 in an exchange faculty member from Montreal.  Al was very supportive of the offer I received to remain at SDSU and along with his wife Mary (another decent friend), welcomed me and my wife Carol to the history department and to their society of friends.  Al was a dedicated teacher and important member of those active in developing the SDSU history department as a social and academic center in college and university affairs. And I most recall our lunch group which brought together members of other departments and disciplines.  The lunch group became an informal space for examinations of all issues of the day in historical and other disciplinary  contexts. I am sorry that I missed Al’s remembrance event last week, but Al has been on my mind and thoughts.

In Sympathy to Mary
Howard Kushner