William Pencak, R.I.P.

tags: obituaries, historians



John Fea is Associate Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College

I recently learned William Pencak has died of complications related to heart surgery. Bill spent most of his career in the History Department at Penn State University and upon retirement moved to Alabama to help start a Jewish studies program at the University of South Alabama.

Bill was a scholar with wide-ranging interests.  He wrote or edited books on the era of the American Revolution, Pennsylvania History, American Jewish history, Icelandic sagas, and veterans in America.  Also worth mentioning is his provocative 2002 essay, "The American Civil War Did Not Take Place."  Bill was prolific.  I always used to tease him about his book on Iceland.  It just seemed so out of place in comparison to his other scholarly work.  But Bill took it all in stride, reminding me that his work on Icelandic sagas resulted in his election as president of the Semiotic Society of America.   Only a few hours before I heard about his death I had made the final decision to use his book Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth (co-edited with Randall Miller) in my Spring 2014 Pennsylvania History course at Messiah College....

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