College mourns historian Richard A. Bradshaw

Posted by Centre News in African Studies, History, News 09 Dec 2014

rickRichard A. Bradshaw, who taught history at Centre from 1995 until 2012, died Dec. 6, 2014, in Merida, Mexico, where he lived.

His primary interests were the Central African Republic and the history of Japanese-African relations, but he also taught classes in African, Asian, Latin American and world history. In addition, he taught Centre’s first Japanese language classes, beginning in the fall of 1996. He also knew or had studied intensively Sango and Suma (Central African Republic languages), French, Spanish and Maya.

Rick BradshawBorn and raised in Japan, where his parents were missionaries, Bradshaw served with the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic and the Ivory Coast as a volunteer and later employee. He spent two years in Japan doing graduate research on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship and a year as a Fulbright-Hays visiting professor at Cameroon’s graduate school for international relations in 2004-05.

He directed two of Centre’s study-abroad programs: Merida in 1999 and Strasbourg, France, in 2002-03 and again in 2007-08. He led classes in the Central African Republic in 1998 and 2000 during Centre’s short term.

Miguel Flores Guerra, at one time an assistant to the Merida program, remembers Bradshaw as inspirational. “Rick was my mentor,” he says. “Rick was loved by his students, friends, and colleagues.”

Frequent collaborator Ibrahim Ndzesop also calls Bradshaw “mentor.” The two first met while Bradshaw was teaching in Cameroon, then teamed up to teach a class on Francophone lives while Bradshaw was directing Centre’s program in Strasbourg. Ndzesop later helped international studies professor Lori Hartmann-Mahmud organize three CentreTerm classes in his country.

“Richard, . . . I mourn your hard work, your commitment, your simplicity, your flexibility, and especially your jokes,” Ndzesop wrote soon after learning of Bradshaw’s untimely death. “I mourn the books we have not published. I mourn the journeys we have not taken. I mourn the contacts you have not made for me. Yet I celebrate your passion to take new challenges. I celebrate your humor. I celebrate you as a linguist, an anthropologist, a political scientist, and a historian par excellence. You once told me you don’t want to live for too long so as not to be a burden to anyone. But for all you have been to us here in Cameroon, in the C.A.R., and in several African countries, we would have been more than honored to bare your pains. . . . Adieu.”

He earned a B.A. at Hawaii Pacific University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Ohio University.

“Rick was a versatile scholar and a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor,” says Michael F. Hamm, Ewing T. Boles Professor Emeritus of History, who taught with Bradshaw for nearly 19 years. After retiring, Bradshaw would stay with Hamm and his wife, JoAnn, when visiting Danville.

“Rick was unusually talented,” Hamm adds. “He was a brilliant linguist who knew several African as well as European languages, and he was always involved in multiple research projects. He grew up in Japan and quit high school to travel the world. He spent many years in the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic as a volunteer and administrator. Considered an expert on that country, he wrote op-ed pieces for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications on various conflicts that arose there. Rick retired early because of chronic medical issues and settled in Merida, a place that he loved.”

A prolific writer, Bradshaw was most recently working on a history of mercenary activity with Brad Fansher ’11, a German and history major at Centre who now teaches social studies in Nashville.

“I met Rick my sophomore year at Centre when he was teaching a class called ‘Dubious Heroes,’ and he got me interested in the topic of mercenaries,” Fansher recalls. “We stayed in contact after I graduated in 2011 and decided to start working on the book together this fall. Rick was a generous man who loved to laugh. He loved people, and he loved hearing their stories. He always watched out for others before himself, and he was humble. He was also a brilliant, passionate scholar, but he never took himself too seriously. He was one of my best friends, and I’m going to miss him.”

Bradshaw’s survivors include his former wife Mary; their children, Eric and Heather; four grandchildren; his father, Melvin, in South Boston, Va.; and his siblings, Joel in Honolulu, Barry in Fairfax, Va., Ken in Paducah, Ky., and Joanne in Odenton, Md. A funeral service was held in Merida on Dec. 9, with plans for a family service in Paducah at a later time.

by Diane Johnson