|College mourns historian David Newhall
RELEASED: August 1, 2005
DANVILLE, KY— Dr. David S. Newhall, a much-admired professor of history at Centre College for 29 years, died Sunday, July 31, after the worship service at the Presbyterian Church of Danville, where he had been an elder and a member of the choir. He was 76.
A native of Burlington, Vt., he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Vermont, was an army ambulance driver during the Korean War, and considered careers in law and the ministry, before finishing master's and doctoral degrees in history at Harvard University and becoming a college professor. He earned tenure at the University of Vermont, then joined the Centre faculty in 1966. He retired from Centre in 1995 as Pottinger Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus.
Dr. Newhall was renowned as a thoughtful historian who enlivened his lectures as well as the campus halls with good humor and a seemingly endless supply of witty stories. He was also not above occasional theatrics; his classroom tricks included an unforgettable a cappella rendition of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. "There's a little bit of the actor--the ham--in every teacher," he once acknowledged.
For years his office was identified by the letters "OZ," the legacy of a former student who wrote on a course evaluation that going to talk to Newhall was like "going to see the great [wizard of] Oz."
He is the author of Clemenceau: A Life at War (Edwin Mellen Press, 1991), a biography of the French statesman on which he worked, off and on, for almost 30 years. He also contributed a number of entries to publications including Historic World Leaders (Gale Research Inc., 1994), Historical Dictionary of the Third French Republic, 1870-1940 (Greenwood Press, 1986), and the Kentucky Encyclopedia (University Press of Kentucky, 1992).
In addition to teaching European history, he served three terms as chair of the social studies division, one of three academic divisions at the College. He was Centre's first National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professor of Humanities, a rotating professorship, and received the student-given Hughes Award for teaching in 1992.
In 1994, he received the Acorn Award for inspiring teaching from the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education. At the presentation ceremony, former student Anna Goodman Hoover '94 recalled her decision to come to Centre after hearing one of Newhall's lectures. "The brilliant man whom I had admired as a prospective student became a professor whom I respect enormously," she said, adding that "his sense of humor never ceases to elicit chuckles."
In 1997, the Centre Alumni Association named him an honorary alumnus.
In retirement, he continued to write on a wide variety of subjects, including 40 essays for Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Thompson Gale, 1999-2002) and others for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (University of Tennessee Press, forthcoming) from his office at Cheek Emeritus House, which he jokingly dubbed Jurassic Park after the dinosaur movie.
Dr. Newhall is survived by his wife, Edna Newhall; their five children, Rebecca, John, Jesslyn Newhall '83, Melissa Newhall '84, and David; and grandchildren.
Arrangements are incomplete at Stith Funeral Home.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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