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Acclaimed educator, scholar named director of University Honors Program

Monday, December 02, 2013

LAWRENCE — One of the nation’s best programs for academically talented students, the University Honors Program at the University of Kansas, will be led by an award-winning teacher and scholar with a background in public outreach and programming.

Danny Anderson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which houses the program, announced that Jonathan Earle will take on the post as director, starting Jan. 1. Earle, an associate professor in the Department of History, has served in various capacities across the university to enhance student and public engagement with KU.

“Jonathan Earle’s enthusiasm for student success at KU is unmistakable. He has actively sought opportunities to serve the needs of students across the university, whether serving as the undergraduate director in a highly enrolled department or developing courses to appeal to majors and non-majors alike,” Anderson said. “His experiences as a teacher, scholar, adviser and associate director for programming at the Dole Institute uniquely prepare him to develop new opportunities to enrich the experience of KU’s best and brightest undergraduates.”

Earle is eager to build upon his longtime involvement with the honors program. Since 1997, he has taken on a variety of duties, including advising and teaching honors students, and serving on advisory committees.

“The University Honors Program is one of the absolute jewels of this great institution, one I've been proud to be a part of since I arrived in Kansas,” he said. “Giving our most talented students — who, after all, have a wide range of choices of where to go to college — an outstanding public education is a chief reason I became a teacher in the first place.”

The honors program ranked second in the nation in “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” by John Willingham (Public University Press, 2012). The study evaluated programs on factors such as curriculum; prestigious awards (Rhodes, Truman and Goldwater); retention and graduation rates; and study abroad programs.

Earle succeeds Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, who will retire as director at the end of this semester. McCluskey-Fawcett led several initiatives to enhance the University Honors Program. Under her direction, the program increased capacity for new students each year from 275 to 400; developed a student opportunity fund to support academic and professional development experiences; and served as an incubator for new programs that could be implemented universitywide, including first-year seminars.

Earle’s interest in the pre-U.S. Civil War period has led to several books: “Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border” (University Press of Kansas, 2013); “John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry:  A Brief History with Documents” (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2008) and prize-winning “Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854” (University of North Carolina Press, 2004). Oxford University Press will publish his book on the election of Abraham Lincoln next year. 

Earle, who completed a doctorate in history at Princeton, has been active in the University Honors Program for more than 15 years, most recently as a Faculty Fellow. He has mentored students nominated for international fellowships; was a founding member of the Honors Council; and co-chaired the program’s co-curricular committee for three years.

From 2003 to 2010, he served as associate director for programming at the Dole Institute of Politics, where he led the development of study groups, public programs, conferences and visits from major guest speakers, including former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He served as interim director from 2007 to 2008.

He was named among the KU Men of Merit in 2013 and received the J. Michael Young Academic Advising Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011. He also won the 2005 Broussard prize, given by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and was a co-winner of the 2005 Byron Caldwell Smith Book Prize for best book by a Kansas author, given by the Hall Center for the Humanities at KU. In 2003, he won a W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching in 2003.

Earle is married to Leslie Tuttle, also an associate professor of history, as well as a fifth-generation Kansan.  Earle’s interest in local history has made him a popular speaker at community events, lecturing on such topics as “The Lecompton Constitution, Bleeding Kansas and Coming of the Civil War” and “John Brown of Osawatomie.”  In 2013, he participated in the sesquicentennial commemoration of the victims of the Lawrence massacre, including the live-tweet re-enactment.