With a dedication to academics and the Yale community, History Department Chair Jon Butler has recently generated much praise for his leadership of faculty and students.
Butler began his career at Yale in 1985 as a professor of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies. Between 1988 and 1993, he chaired the American Studies program, and he has been the William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History since 1990.
But Butler’s colleagues say there is more to him than his long list of accolades. They said Butler is an open-minded and approachable person.
“He has a wonderful sense of humor and the almost-magical capacity to make light of himself and his prodigious achievements,” professor of Religious Studies Harry Stout said.
Some students have described his lectures as “energetic” and “enthusiastic.”
“He really enjoys spending time with people our age and teaching them some things he’s found fascinating over the years,” Ted Oxholm ’07 said.
Butler is currently teaching Religion in Modern America.
“[Butler] has done a wonderful job explaining the complexities and subtleties of a subject about which people are often very protective and narrow-minded,” Julia Kripke ’04 said.
Butler has served as chair of the History Department since 1998.
“I think he’s been a wonderful chair,” History professor Beatrice Bartlett said. “He has done more than any chair than I have ever known.”
Since becoming chair, Butler has made significant changes in the faculty, the management, and even the furniture, Bartlett said.
“[Butler] is one of the people who has made the department work smoothly through organization and fair-mindedness,” History Department Director of Undergraduate Studies Frank Snowden said.
Snowden said during the past few years, the History Department has undergone numerous changes as many professors have left and new ones have been hired.
“I think it could be said that this is a time when the department has successfully renewed itself,” Snowden said, “We have remained a very strong department and he helped to guide us through that process.”
Part of that guidance comes from what Butler’s colleagues describe as his strong sense of leadership.
Butler declined to comment on his potential candidacy for the deanship.
Outside of the classroom, Butler has written numerous books and papers. He has been a guest on National Public Radio, C-SPAN, and NBC’s Dateline. Stout, who has written and edited numerous works with Butler, said he is glad to have worked with Butler for so long.
“[Working with Butler] is an endless source of intellectual growth for me and a confirmation of the fruits of joint teaching,” Stout said.
Butler and Stout were co-directors for both the Pew Program in Religion and American History as well as the Yale Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. This year they plan to finish editing a Yale edition of “The Works of Jonathan Edwards,” a 27-volume collection.
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