The University of West Georgia College of Arts and Humanities (COAH) recently announced the establishment of the John Ferling Distinguished Lecture Series in United States History. It is the first endowed speaker series for the college and is named for one of the country’s most prominent and celebrated American Revolution historians.
With funds donated by UWG professor emeritus Dr. John Ferling and his wife, Carol, the series will invite historians specializing in Colonial Anglo-America/American Revolution, 19th century U.S. history and 20th century U.S. history.
Ferling said he was inspired by his own past to establish the series. As a teenager, he became fascinated in history by watching documentaries and making trips to the library.
“Because I was influenced by experiences that occurred outside the classroom, I felt a lecture series where scholars from elsewhere come to campus to speak might influence students here,” he shared. “They might hear things they hadn’t before. It’ll be something of an awakening for them.”
It will also be beneficial to scholars, both in-and outside UWG. Ferling has experienced success with a similar approach as president of Ingram Library’s Penelope Melson Society, which he has been working with for 10 years.
“We’ve sponsored an exhibit virtually every year that we’ve been in existence,” Ferling said. “We’ve always brought speakers in from some of the most prestigious schools in the country—Yale, Stanford, Boston—to speak. That reconfirmed my belief that these kinds of events could be valuable. Students and people in the community who may otherwise never step foot on the West Georgia campus could attend these talks and find them fruitful.”
With 2018 being his last year leading the Melson Society, Ferling envisions this lecture series as carrying on that purpose in addition to teaching people the importance of the past.
“It’s absolutely crucial to study history,” he observed. “There are values to be had not just for leaders, but also for an average person. History is a way of learning about human nature and human behavior. It’s a way of rounding out an understanding of society.”
COAH Dean Dr. Pauline Gagnon said it is fitting that the first lecture series in the college bears Ferling’s name and highlights his career and brilliance.
“If there’s a name we should remember at this college as one of the top researchers in his field, that would be John Ferling,” she said. “John gave us his entire career in teaching. He also gave the world at large these wonderful books and terrific research. This is a way for us to look at him in a holistic way and remember him at the scale that he really was.”
Ferling is the author of 14 books on the American Revolution era and has received several awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Revolution Roundtable of New York. He has appeared in documentaries aired on PBS, NPR and The History Channel.
UWG serves more than 13,500 students from across Georgia, 37 other states and 72 countries. Perennially ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a top national university, West Georgia offers 88 fields of study, including business, nursing, education, STEM, social sciences and the arts. It generates a regional economic impact of nearly $520 million and provides a safe, quality and affordable college experience that transforms lives.