A prestigious award for a prestigious educator
November 8, 2011
By Steven Johnson ’13
The Samuel Rothberg Professional Excellence Award is one of Bradley University’s highest academic recognitions. To be considered, individuals should have clear evidence of prolonged and ongoing research and/or creative production during their time of affiliation with Bradley University, as demonstrated by publications, presentations or exhibitions.
To her colleagues and students, it comes as no surprise that Dr. Stacey Robertson, Bradley’s history department chair, is this year’s award recipient. To Robertson, however, it was an unexpected accolade.
“It was a surprise and honor to receive the award,” Robertson said. “What a magical moment it was to hear my name called. I am grateful because so many people -- mentors, students, friends, colleagues, and family -- helped support me throughout my career.”
Robertson is one of Bradley’s most accomplished educators. In addition to being endowed as the University’s Oglesby Professor of American Heritage, she has received numerous competitive fellowships that confirm the quality of her scholarship – among them four national research fellowships. She has published three books, four journal articles and an essay in an edited collection.
Robertson credits much of her success to her research subjects, people who devoted themselves to America’s anti-slavery movement. Their stories motivate her as a teacher and scholar.
“Quite simply, I love what I do,” said Robertson, who has been praised for her unusually rich gifts for teaching. “I wake up every day and pinch myself. It is exhilarating to sit at an old desk in the archives reading dusty 19th century letters. The people I write about are absolutely inspiring. They devoted themselves to fighting slavery and it is an honor for me to bring their stories to life.
“In those moments when I'm exhausted from being on the road for days, or my eyes are bleary from reading microfilm for hours, or I've given one too many public talks, I remind myself of the sacrifices the abolitionists made. They did not receive any awards or recognition. They were mobbed, denounced, and isolated for their efforts. That helps to keep me motivated.”
Robertson ranks this moment amongst another one in her outstanding career.
“This award rates right next to the Putnam Award for Excellence in Teaching as the two highest accomplishments of my career,” Robertson said. “It is a dream to win both.”
As accomplished as Robertson is, she has remained humble and hard working. She believes students should take every opportunity to study seriously and remained focused on long-term goals.
“The opportunity to gain an education and use it in a way that is both meaningful and satisfying is a priceless gift,” Robertson said. “I am thankful every day. I take the responsibility that comes with access to knowledge very seriously. My scholarship is a testimony to the generosity and audacity of those who came before us.”