Patty Limerick receives state and national honors

January 11, 2016 •

Patty Limerick, faculty director of the Center of the American West, seizes every opportunity to demonstrate the value of the humanities. As an influential historian of the American West, she tries to help in the resolution of contemporary dilemmas and conflicts by applying a combination of historical perspective and humor.

The recipient of frequent recognition for these approaches, including a MacArthur Fellowship, she is adding two additional honors announced today to the list: member of the advisory board for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and Colorado State Historian.

The NEH board, called the National Council on the Humanities, consists of 26 distinguished citizens who make recommendations on grant applications and advise the chairman. Limerick was nominated by President Barack Obama in the spring of 2015 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2015.

Her appointment as Colorado State Historian by Gov. John Hickenlooper is a key component of a new partnership between History Colorado and the University of Colorado Boulder.

“This strengthened partnership between these two higher education agencies is a demonstration of Colorado’s collaborative spirit and is a testament to the work that state agencies can do together,” Hickenlooper said.

Limerick will continue in her role as the faculty director of the Center of the American West and as a professor at CU-Boulder.

Among other initiatives, Limerick and her team will consult and collaborate on History Colorado exhibits, put on a range of unique public events at History Colorado and develop a university course that will involve students in research and reflection that will contribute directly to exhibits.

Jason Hanson, who has been at the center since 2004 and is a member of the research faculty, will serve as Deputy State Historian. Some of his recent projects include A Ditch in Time: The City, The West, and Water (Fulcrum Publishing, 2012), a book about the history of water in Denver that he coauthored with Patty Limerick, and The Nation Possessed (2013), a collaborative report about the history and future of American public lands. He will be assisted in day-to-day work at History Colorado by CU-Boulder history PhD student Sam Bock.

Nationwide, the last decade has seen a decline in the number of history majors and in the enrollment in history classes. Limerick has aimed much of her work at identifying and exploring new opportunities for young people entering the field of history.

Limerick “is a very distinguished historian and has done extraordinary things at the Center of the American West,” William D. Adams, chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities said of her appointment. “She has a perfect profile for us.”