Nell Irvin Painter


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Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award

In recognition of Nancy Lyman Roelker's role as a teacher, scholar, and committee member of the historical profession, and on the occasion of her 75th birthday, friends, colleagues, and former students established the Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award. The annual award recognizes and encourages a special quality exemplified by Professor Roelker through the human component in her teaching of history.

Mentoring should encompass not only a belief in the value of the study of history but also a commitment to and a love of teaching it to students regardless of age or career goals. Advising is an essential component, but it also combines a consistent personal commitment by the mentor to the student as a person. Offering a human alternative, frequently in quiet and unacknowledged ways, mentors like Professor Roelker believe that the essence of history lies in its human scope. With this award, the American Historical Association attests to the special role of mentors to the future of the historical profession.

The award is given on a three-cycle rotation to graduate, undergraduate, and secondary school teacher mentors. The 2000 award for graduate-level mentors was given to Nell Irvin Painter. President-elect Louis read the following citation: "Nell Irvin Painter's career at the University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Princeton University, where she is currently Edwards Professor of American History, meets and far exceeds the criteria for this award. Throughout her life in academia, she has consistently exemplified the important functions of a mentor: being forthright and supportive, engaging in a one-to-one partnership in learning, and being constructively critical as well as committed to the development of the entire student as an individual. Many of Professor Painter's students, now in the profession, spoke of her ability to make them envisage themselves as future historians, members of the academy. They also spoke of how difficult it would have been for them to achieve what they have without her assistance that did not end once they had graduated and left her direct care but continued as she mentored them on the job market and in their early appearances at professional meetings. Letters of support for Professor Painter spoke of a passion for her field, a passion for teaching, and a genuine passion for mentoring graduate students that went well beyond what can be expected of most individuals. Her inclusive view of history also makes her an ideal choice for this award—her writing is the history of inclusion, not exclusion. Professor Painter is a living example of what it means to be a mentor. She personifies the best characteristics of a mentor, thus inspiring a new generation of students to join the profession and enrich the lives of others."

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