Roy Rosenzweig: Succumbs to lung cancer

Historians in the News

Roy Rosenzweig, a historian and pioneer of digital technology and new media, died from cancer on Oct. 11. He joined the Mason faculty in 1981.

Rosenzweig was the Mark and Barbara Fried Chair and director of the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which he founded in 1994. CHNM has been at the forefront of efforts to use new media and digital technology to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past while reaching new and diverse audiences. [HNN is part of the Center.]

Just a few weeks ago, Rosenzweig was named as one of the Mason professors to lead CHNM in creating an online National History Education Clearinghouse. The online project will help K-12 history teachers become more effective educators and show their students why history is relevant to their daily lives.

"Roy was obviously one of the most distinguished faculty. He was truly an imaginative historian, from his first book that I still use to the pioneering work he did on the Center for History and New Media. He will be greatly missed personally and professionally, but we will be building on his accomplishments for a long time to come," says Provost Peter Stearns.

Rosenzweig was involved in a number of different digital history projects, including web sites on U.S. history, historical thinking, the French Revolution, the history of science and technology, world history and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Earlier this year, Rosenzweig received the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians in recognition of his contributions to significantly enriching the understanding and appreciation of American history.

Rosenzweig was a graduate of Columbia College and studied at St. John's College of Cambridge, England before receiving his PhD from Harvard University. Before coming to Mason, he was an assistant professor of history and humanities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In 2005, Rosenzweig's web-based project, "History Matters," earned him and the CHNM the James Harvey Prize of the American Historical Association. In 2003, he was awarded the second Richard W. Lyman Award for his work with CHNM, particularly the "History Matters" project and the September 11 Digital Archive.

The $25,000 prize recognized scholarly achievement of unusual merit and impact and innovative use of information technology in humanistic scholarship and teaching. These projects are attempts to make new and rare historical documents free and accessible to anyone and explore how technology can be used to enhance the study of history.

In 1999, Rosenzweig was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award, the commonwealth's highest honor for faculty at public and private colleges and universities in Virginia.

He was the coauthor of numerous books, including "The Park and the People: A History of Central Park," which won the 1993 Historic Preservation Book Award and the 1993 Urban History Association Prize for Best Book on North American Urban History. He also co-wrote "The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life," which has won prizes from the Center for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History.

Rosenzweig was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and lectured as a Fulbright professor. He also served as vice president for research of the American Historical Association.

Information on memorial services will be announced in the Gazette and E-Files as soon as it become available.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Rosenzweig's memory may be made to the Center for History and New Media (CHNM). Make checks payable to the George Mason University Foundation, 4400 University Drive, MS 1A3, Fairfax, VA 22030. Please note that your gift is for the CHNM.

Related Links

  • HNN Tribute to Roy Rosenzweig

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    More Comments:

    Caroline Hill - 10/14/2007

    I never met Roy but as a regular reader of HNN and an admirer of his energy from afar I join others in condolences.

    The best tribute to him would be to continue his work with the same commitment and verve.

    Susan M Reverby - 10/13/2007

    I opened up my HNN to find this news and still can't quite believe it. I think of Roy as someone who was just always there, always going to be there, always going to be laughing and helpful. My deepest sympathies and my heart go out to his family and colleagues. Our field has lost a someone whose life really mattered and changed the way we all think and do our work. Roy, you will be missed.

    James W Loewen - 10/13/2007

    Just last week, well, maybe two weeks ago, I needed advice on a database to use to organize my list of thousands of sundown towns across the US, so I emailed Roy, not knowing of his illness. He replied forthwith, with a good suggestion. I mention this just to indicate the hundreds, no thousands of historians and social scientists who lost a friend and colleague, even for silly little things like this errand.

    Jurretta Jordan Heckscher - 10/12/2007

    The loss to Roy's family, CHNM, and GMU is shared by all of us fortunate enough to have known him, and all who care about the future of humanistic scholarship in the digital age.

    My heartfelt condolences to all Roy's family and colleagues, in sorrow, gratitude and admiration for a life whose visionary contributions will continue to enrich the work of so many for the rest of our own lives.

    HNN - 10/12/2007

    Roy will be missed. We considered him our captain at HNN.

    He died after a long fight with lung cancer. He had never smoked but lung cancer got him anyway. It was unfair as life often is.

    But Roy was so full of energy, even during his illness, that it was hard to think he ever concluded life is unfair. He made the most of life and brought out the best in the rest of us.

    Yes, he'll be missed. Sorely missed.

    Goodbye Roy.