Sociology professor Beau Weston wins Kentucky History Award
Van Winkle Professor of Sociology Beau Weston recently won a Kentucky History Award for his book of Centre history, “Centre College: Scholars, Gentlemen, Christians.”
The book won the award, presented by the Kentucky Historical Society, for a publication from a Class C organization.
“The title of the book comes from a speech that trustee John Yerkes made to the College in 1922, in which he quoted another charge made (anonymously) to Old Centre in the 1880s. He said, ‘Make scholars. Make gentlemen. Make Christians. All else is base ambition. That is your Crown,’” Weston says. “Over the years, each specific term of that charge has changed. And yet, Centre still has the same basic orientation and strength that it has always had, despite all the outward changes over the years.”
Connections to Centre abounded even at the awards ceremony.
“The person who actually handed me the award was Stuart Sanders ’95, an alumnus who works for the Kentucky Historical Society,” Weston says. “His work on Centre in the Civil War is featured prominently in the book. He told me that when they were judging the book for the award, he recused himself, which I think is to his credit.”
Weston’s decision to write the Centre history came after he was involved in a national discussion at Centre — the Rhodes Consultation on the Future of the Church-Related College — funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
“Representatives from many colleges, some with very strong church relations and some, like Centre, with very weak church relations, gathered a group of faculty members on their own campuses for a year-long seminar about what the church relation meant at that particular college,” Weston says. “Our discussion at Centre was, I thought, very fruitful. As a background paper for the seminar, I researched and wrote an article of about twenty-five pages on the history of Centre’s relationship with the Presbyterian Church.”
This experience with the Rhodes Consultation and his ensuing paper led Weston to the realization that Centre did not have a true college history, so he began the process of creating one.
“We did have one book that was commissioned for the sesquicentennial in 1969, but it was very eccentric and in any case is now quite out of date. One thing led to another,” says Weston. “Over several summers, I read all the published material I could find, read all the minutes of the various college bodies, read documents and papers in the College archives, interviewed many old Centre hands, as well as the archives of several outside organizations.”
In his search for information about Centre, Weston — along with student helpers Katie Adams Stoner ’01, Amy Sibley Jones ’04 and Tyler Ward ’07 — came across some particularly enlightening documents in the archives.
“One of my most interesting projects was to read every issue of the Cento from the fall of 1965 to the spring of 1975 to chart the effect of the cultural revolution that we call the Sixties,” he says.
Weston completed a manuscript of his book nearly six years ago, but since “Our Standard Sure” — a pictoral history by Tom Hardin and Bob Hill commissioned by the College — was being written around that time, Weston waited to release his own book until Homecoming 2010.
Weston credits others at Centre for helping to make the book a success.
“Bob Glass, the college archivist, and Diane Johnson, the college editor, were a huge help in making the book,” he says. “I interviewed many old Centre hands, none more knowledgeable that Bill Breeze, Centre’s living memory archive. And the College paid for the whole publication, for which I thank the president. All proceeds go back to the College — for me, this was a labor of love.
“Centre has a great story,” Weston continues. “I wanted this book to be an engaging, readable and comprehensive way for everyone to hear that story.”
“Centre College: Scholars, Gentlemen, Christians” is available for purchase at the Centre Bookstore.