History Department selects 5 Richard H. Thomas Scholars

Five Cornell College history students are getting the opportunity to study off campus, thanks to an endowment set up by the family of The Rev. Dr. Richard H. Thomas to honor his educational legacy at Cornell as professor emeritus of history, chaplain emeritus, and college historian. 

Professor Thomas remains an important member of the Hilltop and surrounding community and continues to contribute to important public history initiatives in the area.

Alyssa Burns, Elizabeth Byland, and Charlie De Poortere have been named Richard H. Thomas scholars for 2021. Eli Craig and Miles Kolmstetter were also named Richard H. Thomas Scholars in 2020, but due to the inability to travel during the pandemic, they will use their award during the upcoming academic year.

Craig and Burns will use the award to participate in a classics course during Block 7. Gods, Emperors, and Philosophers invites students to trek across Greece and Western Turkey to explore and contemplate both the material and textual remains that inform our knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to the Ottoman empire.

“It means the world to me to receive this award,” Burns said. “Being able to travel has always been a dream of mine and earning the award is making it come true.”

De Poortere, an archaeology and history double major, will use the award to study at the Center for American Archaeology Field School in Illinois during the summer of 2021. He’ll explore archaeological sites in the Lower Illinois River Valley.

“This award really means a lot,” De Poortere said. “I now have the opportunity to dig deeper and sort through layers of history to get a more complete picture of the lives and stories that existed in communities from long ago. I get to experience firsthand what it feels like to uncover the buried truths of the past, even the troubling ones, so that the world can know the incredible accomplishments, tragedies, and legacies of those who lived before us.” 

Kolmstetter, a history and German studies double major, will use the award to travel abroad Block 8 during the course, Investigating German Pasts & Presents. Starting in Vienna, Austria, moving through the Alps and north to Munich, Germany, and ending in the cosmopolitan German capital of Berlin, this course will explore the cultural, linguistic, social, political, and environmental foundations of Germany and Austria.

“This award is a generous financial gift,” Kolmstetter said. “I will be able to accomplish an awesome educational experience abroad for my German studies major.”

Byland will use the award to study abroad during a Block 2 politics course. Holocaust & Human Rights in Europe addresses the history, politics, and lived experience of the Holocaust and other significant human rights abuse in Europe, from the points of view of victims, perpetrators, and bystanders.

Students can apply for the Richard H. Thomas award throughout the year. It is available to history majors and minors. The history department considers applicants based on set criteria, which includes the student’s academic standing, a completed application, and documentation of financial need. Students can contact Professor Michelle Herder or Professor Catherine Stewart to get more information on how to apply.