Reporter's Notebook: Highlights from the 2007 OAH Convention: Day 3


Mr. Shenkman is the editor of HNN.

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Day 3: Saturday, March 31, 2007

Today was Presidents Day at the OAH. Early in the day the nominating committee announced at the Business Meeting that the next president-elect would be Elaine Tyler May, who teaches history at the University of Minnesota. (Presumably, it's just a coincidence that she happened to be selected the year the convention is meeting in her state.) In the afternoon Richard White, the current president, delivered his much anticipated presidential address and then handed over the gavel to a tiara-adorned Nell Irvin Painter (more on this in a moment). In the evening 7 former presidents of the OAH appeared on a panel commemorating the 100th anniversary of the organization. (Professor May may have wondered what she's gotten herself into. A major theme of the former presidents' talks was how difficult the job sometimes is.)

Just how difficult was made evident at the OAH Business Meeting. Treasurer Robert Cherny reported that it now appears the OAH will not after all end the current fiscal year with a surplus of $149,000, as expected. At best the organization will break even. And the OAH will still owe Indiana University $179,000, which will have to be paid back from the group's endowment fund. OAH members knew moving the 2005 convention from San Francisco to San Jose as a result of the hotel labor dispute would be costly. Now they know how costly.

To cover the shortfall the OAH is raising dues. Members in the highest income group ($100,000 and over) will see their dues go from $130 to $190. Those earning between $80,000 and $99,999 will see theirs go from $130 to $150.

Dues for the group earning between $50,000 to $59,999 will go from $95 to $105.
Dues for the group earning between $60,000 to $69,999 will go from $105 to $115.
Dues for the group earning between $70,000 to $79,999 will go from $115 to $130.

Those earning under $50,000 will see no increase at all.

Not many people showed up at the Business Meeting.
Just 17 people in all.
Counting the OAH photographer.

Jon Butler, head of the nominating committee, missed the meeting, too. He sent word that he faced the choice of seeing his three-year old grandchild or attending the meeting. The grandchild won.

Ed Linenthal, editor of the Journal of American History, announced that the December issue will be entirely devoted to Katrina. It will include essays delivered at a conference held in Mobile earlier this month.

At four o'clock sharp (more or less) the afternoon awards ceremony began. Presiding over the event was incoming President Nell Irvin Painter, who struck a mock-regal tone by wearing a tiara. Asked about it, she explained it was given to her the other day by a friend who declared it was made out of "diamonds." Sure.

The Distinguished Service Award went to Roy Rosenzweig and David Kennedy. The OAH Friend of History Award went to Sen. Robert Byrd, who's single handedly responsible for the appropriation of well over half a billion federal tax dollars in connection with the Teaching American History grants (a few years ago the AHA gave him a similar award) and Libby O'Connell, a Ph.D. who advises the History Channel. Neither was present to accept the award.

After a slew of awards were given out to young scholars Richard White delivered his presidential address.

The title of his address was "The Relevance of History and the Problems with Relevance." You can watch it yourself to see why it will probably be remembered a long time by those who saw it in person. It was eloquent, witty--and biting. Have a look. (Sam Tanenhaus this means you.)

Click here to watch Part 2

The day ended with the astonishing appearance of seven--count 'em seven!--past presidents of the OAH, including Eric Foner (1993-94):

Click here to watch Part 2

Ann Firor Scott (1983-1984)

John Hope Franklin (1974-75) (note: video is distorted in the first few minutes)

Carl Degler (1979-80)

Coming soon: Clips from David Montgomery and Mary Frances Berry.




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More Comments:

Robert W. Cherny - 4/2/2007

HNN is not correct in assuming that the debt to IU at the end of Fiscal Year 2006 was due to the move of the annual meeting in 2005. My treasurer's report on FY06, in the Febr OAH Newsletter makes clear that the debt to IU was due largely to a shortfall in revenue projections for FY06. The report is on pages 14ff, at http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2007feb/pdf/Feb07-OAH-NL.pdf

At most $30,000 of the end-of-FY06 debt can be attributed to the move from San Francisco to San Jose, and there were other contributing factors to that $30,000 shoftfall at the end of FY05. For the FY05 treasurer's report, see

Robert W. Cherny

Chris Morris - 4/2/2007

Is there a Part Three to Richard's presidential address?

Chris Morris

Tim Lacy - 4/2/2007

I reluctantly agree with Ms. Reverby. Although I admire the technological advance, and like the idea of seeing and hearing some of the presenters/speakers, being able to print shorter reports for later, easier reading (and thinking) times is attractive. - TL

Susan M Reverby - 4/2/2007

I miss the summary and reeporting. Trying to hear the presidential addresses on bad home video (sorry guys) is no substitute for Rick's trenchant summaries and insight. Please bring back the old fashioned reporting. I miss it.

Susan Reverby