Yale Bulletin and Calendar

June 23, 2000Volume 28, Number 34

Howard Lamar is famed for his scholarship in the field of Western history. The initial funding for the new center named in his honor was provided by Yale trustee Roland W. Betts '68.

Center for the study of frontier
experience honors Howard Lamar

Yale announced the creation of The Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders, which has been established to further historical and comparative explorations of the frontier experience in North America and throughout the world.

The center honors Howard Roberts Lamar, Sterling Professor Emeritus of History and former president of the University. Lamar, well-known for his pivotal contributions to the field of Western history, continues to work as a scholar and adviser. The Yale University Press recently published "The New Encyclopedia of the American West," a comprehensive work edited by Lamar. Historian and author Stephen E. Ambrose described this book as "a monumental achievement in the historiography of the American West. Howard Lamar has rendered our nation a great service by compiling this magisterial and indispensable reference volume."

The initial funding of the Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders at Yale has been provided by a generous gift from Roland W. Betts, Yale Class of 1968. Betts, a member of the Yale Corporation, is the chair and chief executive officer of Chelsea Piers, L.P., which developed and operates the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex in New York City. He is founder and president of Silver Screen Management, Inc. and president of International Film Investors, Inc. After graduation from Yale, Betts taught public school in Harlem and trained teachers through a not-for-profit corporation, The Teachers Incorporated. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1978. He is also a member of the United States Olympic Committee and a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Parks Council. He serves on the board of governors of Columbia Law School and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.

John Mack Faragher, the Arthur Unobskey Professor of History at Yale and author of numerous books, including a prize-winning biography of Daniel Boone and "Women and Men on the Overland Trail," will serve as the Lamar Center's academic director. Jay Gitlin, a popular Yale lecturer and the author of a forthcoming study of the French in the Mississippi Valley, will serve as the center's executive coordinator.

With the creation of the Lamar Center, Yale dedicates itself to maintaining a position of national importance in the study of the frontier experience, the American West and Native American history. President Richard C. Levin, in commenting on the creation of the center, said, "It is always a particular pleasure when a gift to Yale builds on an area in which it has long had strength. Roland Betts' initial funding of the Lamar Center recognizes this strength and will help Yale ensure and extend it. I am very grateful to Mr. Betts for the imaginativeness of the gift and for its generosity. And I am delighted that the center will be named for Howard Lamar, whose scholarly eminence in Western history and contributions to Yale make his the natural name to link with this distinguished center."

The center will sponsor, in cooperation with other departments and divisions of the University, annual conferences and, from time to time, lectures by distinguished scholars from other institutions. In keeping with Lamar's dedication and generosity of spirit as a teacher, mentor and friend to generations of Yale students, the center will provide grants for graduate and undergraduate research and subsidize, as funds permit, the stipends of one or two newly admitted graduate students each year in history or American studies who plan to pursue frontier studies. The center also hopes to sponsor an annual postdoctoral fellowship.

The directors of the center believe that the West continues to provide -- in Howard Lamar's words -- "a wonderful window on American history." The history of the frontier experience is at once profoundly local and specific, yet national -- even global -- in scope, they point out.

Furthermore, they add, "a field which must by its very nature acknowledge the importance of ordinary women and men even as it seeks to understand the political, economic, social and moral struggles which encompassed their actions, Western history retains its power over our national psyche."

Recognizing both the public and scholarly interest in Americans' Western past, the Lamar Center hopes to provide a national forum for historical discussion and an academic jumping-off place for future explorations of the frontier experience and the cultural borderlands of North America and the world.


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Center for the study of frontier experience honors Howard Lamar

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