UIC historian appointed to distinguished lectureship program

Robert Johnston
Robert Johnston. Photo: Manny Medina

UIC’s Robert Johnston has been named a distinguished lecturer by the Organization of American Historians, the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history.

Johnston, professor of history, is one of 21 new speakers appointed to the organization’s esteemed Distinguished Lectureship Program. He joins nearly 600 distinguished lecturers who share their expertise with audiences across the country, provide historical context on important topics, and headline commemorations and other events.

Johnston, whose research focuses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, post-1970 U.S. history, the history of medicine, and the politics of historiography, also specializes in teaching and classroom leadership as the director of UIC’s Teaching of History program.

“I’m delighted and honored to join this OAH program, which has done so much to bring historians into important discussions with a broad range of audiences,” Johnston said.

Johnston’s book, “The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon,” received the President’s Book Award from the Social Science History Association. His current book project, which is under contract with Oxford University Press, examines the history of controversies over vaccination in American history from the early 18th century to the present.

“From the history of capitalism to the history of vaccination, Professor Johnston’s expertise spans issues that are very much in the headlines,” said Katherine M. Finley, executive director of the Organization of American Historians. “He is an engaging and insightful speaker and we are honored he has joined us as a Distinguished Lecturer.”

He has served as the academic director for three U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History grants, each more than $1 million, in conjunction with the Newberry Library and the Chicago Metro History Education Center. He also has directed five four-week National Endowment for the Humanities summer institutes for K-12 teachers from across the country.

Johnston, who has been at UIC since 2003, is a two-time recipient of both the UIC Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning’s Teaching Recognition Program Award and the department of history’s Shirley Bill Award for excellence in teaching, which is based on votes from undergraduate and graduate students. Previous honors also include the UIC Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016 and the Graduate Mentoring Award from the Graduate College in 2018.

Created in 1981, the Organization of American Historians’ distinguished speakers bureau is considered a key component of the organization’s mission to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching and presentation of American history. Each distinguished speaker agrees to present one lecture on behalf of the organization each academic year and to donate his or her lecture fee to the organization.

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