Bushman Takes the Claremont Position

Ever since the chair of Mormon Studies was announced at Claremont, there has been a wave of speculation about who would fill it. Well, that speculation is now over. The following announcement has been passed around in certain circles (though I don’t find anything on the CGU website yet):

Professor Richard Bushman has been appointed as the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies. Professor Bushman was Governor Morris Professor of History at Columbia University, where he is currently emeritus. He has taught at Boston University, Harvard, Brown, University of Delaware and Brigham Young University. Over the course of his career he has published 11 books, receiving a Bancroft and Phi Alpha Theta prizes as well as the Evans biography awards. His scholarship ranges over the social and cultural history of early America, the political history of colonial New England, American religious history and the history of the Mormon Church. The list of fellowships that he has received is extensive; among them are a Guggenheim Fellowship, Huntington Fellowship, National Humanities Center Fellowship and National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship. For the academic year 2007-2008 will hold a Huntington Library fellowship and be in residence in Pasadena. He will come to Claremont in the Fall of 2008.

In many ways, Bushman is the perfect person for this job. He is almost universally well-liked, extremely capable, and an excellent mentor. He has in recent years become the public face of Mormon Studies and embodies everything that this new discipline can and should be. His students and colleagues will be lucky to have him and he will no doubt greatly enrich the lives of those with whom he works.

Bushman, however, has one drawback for this new role. He is 76 years old. I believe he’ll turn 78 during his first year of teaching. While he certainly shows no signs of slowing down either physically or intellectually, one wonders about his long-term stamina. The reason that this is a concern is because graduate programs have long lives. The typical doctoral student takes about 5-7 years. Can Bushman see his first few students to completion? What about those accepted four years from now? While I have seen faculty members continue to be productive into their eighties, and I of course hope to see Bushman in this category, it does seem like a great deal of pressure for him to even graduate five or six students over the first ten years of his appointment.

Unfortunately, we may have to face the same problem ten years from now that we have now. Who is capable enough to fill this role besides Bushman? Will there be another who will rise up in the next decade who can fill those shoes?

15 Replies to “Bushman Takes the Claremont Position”

  1. “Professor Richard Bushman has been appointed as the Howard W. Hunter Visiting Professor in Mormon Studies.”

    Any significance to the term visiting?

  2. Justin,
    Not sure, but the position is technically not a tenured one, from what I understand. The donors wanted some oversight to who occupied the chair so every three years they come up for review. This gives the chair some serious credibility issues, if true, but Bushman is able to overcome those issues.

  3. I think that the visiting portion of the title and its implications (the position not being a tenured one) reveal that Bushman is probably the only qualified person who would accept this position right now. Why would a younger, tenured professor leave that position for something as risky as the Claremont Mormon Studies chair?

    Another thought to consider is that this is a Religious Studies position, which Bushman has little experience with. He is more of a traditional historian, and though religious history will certainly be part of his responsibilities, is he qualified to handle theology, religious sociology, etc?

    I personally think Grant Underwood will likely replace Bushman in the next 4 or 5 years, as he was among the rumored finalists for the position this time around and is widely recognized as an able scholar. Plus, he is still relatively young (at least when compared to Bushman). However, his credibility might take a hit because he has only held positions in CES and at BYU.

  4. Christopher,
    You make an excellent point. I think that the way that it is set up now makes it very risky for someone to take the job who isn’t independently wealthy or retired and can afford to take the risk. Plus, if it doesn’t work out, I am sure that it would be very difficult to find another job!

    I think that you are right that Underwood is capable, but I also think that the BYU affiliation is not exactly what they are looking for. That said, after 5 years no one will care.

  5. Bushman is one of my heroes. I am a bit baffled as to why he would want such a position. My guess would be that he did not apply for it but was instead offered the position as a means of giving it a higher profile.

  6. #7 – Bushman actually did apply for the job. Even his good buddy Terryl Givens was a little surprised. You are right that Bushman has the possibility of giving the job a higher profile. His fundraising potential is far above that of the other finalists (Underwood, K. Flake).

    I share some of the concerns expressed elsewhere that Bushman may not be able to see the first graduate students fully through the program, much less those that come in the future. Perhaps while he holds the position, other candidates will improve their credentials. I agree that Underwood might have some credibility problems coming from BYU, but with the non-tenured aspect of the position, it will never be completely independent anyway.

  7. As a former employee of Pitzer College, ‘takes the Claremont position’ may be the funniest phrase I’ve read in ages.

  8. Dude, it’s Gouverneur Morris, not Governor Morris. Apparently Gouverneur was actually the dude’s name. I only know that because my fifth grade teacher was some descendant of Gouverneur Morris and despite the fact that he plays a pretty minor part in the story of the revolution, she always took time to tell us all about him. I wonder if she ever thought that in law school I would still remember her drilling this into our heads.

  9. JHK (#10),

    Actually Morris was a rather significant player in the early republic. He was among Pennsylvania’s representatives at the Constitutional Convention, and helped author the Consitution’s Preamble.


    David Grua on the T&S thread explains that Bushman only plans on staying at CGU for the duration of his initial contract (3 years). If that’s the case, he won’t even be able to see his first students to completion.

  10. I thought this was a done deal the minute Bushman’s name came up in conversation.

    In other Mormon news. . . General Conference will be held twice this year, once in April and then again in October. =)

  11. Christopher (#11) – A LDS grad student at Claremont recently told me that the general sense in the LDS circles at Claremont is that health permitting, Bushman will finish out any disseration/thesis that is started under his direction.

  12. David (#15)-

    Thanks for the update.

    Tim (#13)-

    Actually the job wasn’t a guarantee for Bushman at all. Rumor has it that he was one of three finalists, and only accepted the position after the first finalist offered the job turned it down (because of the tenure issues).

  13. Bushman makes an excellent choice for initiating and transitioning the program.

    BTW, my grandfather remained productive as a scholar into his mid-90s. If Bushman follows suit he could have another twenty good years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *