Monday, May 4, 2015

A Remembrance of Stanley Kutler, by Donald Rogers

Donald Rogers
[This is the fourth in a series of posts in which the students of Stanley I. Kutler share memories of their mentor.  Donald Rogers is Adjunct Lecturer in History at Central Connecticut State University, Housatonic Community College, and Albertus Magnus College.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1983.  His dissertation was "The Rise of the Administrative Process: Industrial Safety Regulation in Wisconsin, 1880-1940."]

No sooner had I arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison history department in 1973 as a graduate student that I learned that Stanley Kutler was something of a force of nature.  My first contact came as one of his teaching assistants in 1974 when he was immersed in his post as editor of Reviews in American History and in his research on the manuscript that would later become his book The American Inquisition.  As a green, very green, graduate student, I found him in a large, cluttered office that—I soon learned—was testimony to his remarkable energy and wide-ranging scholarly interests.  From my view as I went on to become one of his doctoral students, many of my graduate colleagues mistook brusqueness for what was really a sign that Stanley was always very busy and passionate about his scholarly work.  “Passion” is exactly the right word for what I will recollect about him as a mentor:  passion for good historical craftsmanship, passion to be a scholarly producer, passion for getting to the bottom of things, and passion for his students.  I observed a semester of his packed undergraduate constitutional history course which kept all of the students in rapt attention with his analytical precision, enthusiasm and especially humor.  I appreciated the tight argumentation of his book Privilege and Creative Destruction, his book on the Charles River Bridge Case that he assigned for reading his graduate seminar.  I attended his press conference when he announced that news reports found him listed on the Nixon White House’s “enemies list,” an eventuality he declared would not dissuade him from investigating the history of the Watergate scandal, leading to his subsequent Freedom of Information suit and subsequent books The Wars of Watergate and Abuse of Power.  I certainly grew intellectually from our give-and-take as he shepherded me toward completion of my dissertation.  I benefitted from his support when he got me started as a newly-minted Ph. D. by appointing me as an instructor in UW’s American Institutions Program (which he headed) before I headed off into a terrible job market.  Despite my own ups and downs, he kept in touch with his always enthusiastic reports for ongoing projects.  I’ll remember Stanley Kutler as a ball of energy, a constant intellectual stimulus, and an unstoppable devotee for good constitutional history.