Left to Right: Christopher Rossi, Rosemarie Ward,
Valentina Fominykh, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, William
Friedricks, and Simpson president John Byrd
HUMANITIES IOWA NAMES SIMPSON COLLEGE'S
WILLIAM FRIEDRICKS FIRST IOWA HISTORY PRIZE WINNER
Humanities Iowa named William Friedricks of Simpson
College as the first winner of the Iowa History
The biennial award of $90,000 is funded by Humanities
Iowa, the state affiliate to the National Endowment
for the Humanities. In creating the award, HI intends
to celebrate an Iowa history scholar and to promote
a general public conversation about the states
"This award is not purely honorific,"
said Humanities Iowa executive director Christopher
Rossi. "Iowas new public historian presented
a juried proposal that he will now implement to
better Iowans understanding and appreciation
of Iowa history and fight against our encroaching
"As a former high school government and history
teacher, I experienced the important role social
science plays in education and the positive impact
it has on students," said Governor Chet Culver.
"I congratulate Dr. Friedricks for his great
work as a teacher, a researcher and an author. It's
only appropriate that his accomplishments as one
of the great scholars of our state's history led
to his selection as the first recipient of this
Friedricks, who received his doctorate in American
history from the University of Southern California
in 1986, started teaching at Simpson in 1988. After
successfully revising his dissertation into the
book, Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern
California, a Simpson trustee suggested that Friedricks
write a book on the history of the Des Moines Register.
That book sparked an interest in Iowa history that
led him to found the Iowa History Center at Simpson
"Bill is certainly an asset to the state of
Iowa," said Simpson President John Byrd, who
supported Friedricks vision of the Iowa History
Center. "The great passion he has for his work
will ensure that future generations of Iowans will
understand and appreciate the history of this great
state. Humanities Iowa made a wonderful choice in
selecting Bill as the inaugural recipient of the
Iowa History Prize."
Friedricks, himself, said he was "thrilled
to be the first recipient of the Iowa History Prize."
"I am eager to get our programming started,"
Friedricks said. "At the Iowa History Center
we intend to use the funding from the prize to jumpstart
Friedricks proposal includes everything from
a free speaker series to grants to elementary schools
to fund Iowa history field trips. He also has proposed
an Iowa Oral History Project to record the stories
of prominent Iowans and an Iowa History Center Press
designed to publish works with an appeal to both
an academic and a popular audience.
These projects are intended to spark an interest
in Iowa history among the people of the Hawkeye
state. Too often, Friedricks said, professional
historians lose touch with those things that bring
history alive to regular people.
"Many professional historians have abdicated
their public role," Friedricks said. "Instead,
they are sequestered away in colleges and universities,
researching esoteric topics and writing in journals
that are only read by other scholars in the field.
Such research is advancing history, but it often
does not make its way to the general public."
Convincing people of the value of Iowa history,
in particular, can be a challenge. While some states
like Kansas and Texas require the study of local
history, Iowa does not.
"Im not exactly sure why Iowa history
hasnt been stressed more," Friedricks
said. "Maybe its the modesty of Iowans
that discourages the study of our own past. Or maybe
its the mistaken belief that nothing interesting
or important ever happened here. This, of course,
couldnt be further from the truth, and Iowans
should know that."
Friedricks added that the Iowa History Prize can
do a lot to help drive interest in the states
"The Iowa History Prize is a great way to raise
awareness of our history," Friedricks said.
"It will encourage the teaching of Iowa history
and promote new and interesting research in Iowa
history. Hopefully, and most importantly, it will
get Iowans talking about our history."
The blue ribbon panel of judges making the selection
included Humanities Iowa board members, Herbert
Hoover Presidential Library director Tim Walch,
former State Historical Society senior historian
Loren Horton, and UI history professor Leslie Schwalm.
HI board president Valentina Fominykh chaired the
"I believe that the Humanities Iowa initiative
to inaugurate the Iowa History Prize is really historic,"
Fominykh said. "I believe it will rekindle
the interest and genuine curiosity for Iowas
history and heritage across the state. As it was
once said: We remain human beings as long
as we remember our past."
Humanities Iowa is a grant making non-profit
organization devoted to promoting understanding
and appreciation of the people, communities, cultures,
and stories of importance to Iowa and the nation.
History Prize is a great way to raise awareness
of our history. It will encourage the teaching of
Iowa history and promote new and interesting research
in Iowa history. Hopefully, and most importantly,
it will get Iowans talking about our history."
First Iowa History Prize winner
A few facts about
...Founded the Iowa
History Center in 2006
...Author of several
books on Iowa history including...
Investing in Iowa: The Life and Times of F.M. Hubbell
In for the Long
Haul: The Life of John Ruan (2003)
The History of the Des Moines Register and Tribune
...Winner of the
Iowa Reader Literary Award for best biography in
Iowa history (for The Life of John Ruan)
of Simpson College Distinguished Research Award
(1991, 2000, & 2006)
of honorable mention for the Benjamin Shambaugh
Award for the best book on Iowa history (2001, 2004,
for the Throne/Aldrich Award from the State Historical
Society of Iowa (1996)
...Winner of the
Sesquicentennial Research Award from the State Historical
Society of Iowa (1994-95)