Thomas Slaughter, Professor of American History, Named First Recipient
University of Rochester alumnus Arthur R. Miller '56, '08 (Hon), the nation's preeminent scholar in the field of civil procedure, has established a professorship in history with a gift commitment to the University of $1.5 million. Thomas P. Slaughter, a ground-breaking American historian who joined the University in the fall, will be the first to hold the endowed position.
"Arthur Miller has long been one of the University's most illustrious graduates," said University President Joel Seligman. "His treatise, Federal Practice and Procedure, is an essential reference for judges and lawyers; it's absolutely legendary. That he would now endow a professorship demonstrates not only his generosity but also his affection and commitment to the University of Rochester."
A prolific scholar, Miller is the author of more than 40 books, including important works in the fields of copyright and privacy. He is familiar to national audiences thorough his pioneering work as a legal commentator for television and was a professor of law at Harvard University for 36 years. Currently, Miller is a University Professor at New York University School of Law.
Here at the University, he has held "Miller's Court" during Meliora Weekend in recent years. In 1984, the University awarded Miller the Hutchison Medal for Distinguished Public Service, and in 2008 he was given an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
"History may have been the perfect major for me," recalled Miller. "It was sufficiently related to the law that it motivated me to go to law school, and I feel very fortunate that I have spent my life teaching and practicing it professionally. I just loved many of my history courses — and professors — at the U of R."
Endowed professorships, Miller added, "enable you to reach out and attract faculty of a caliber that might not otherwise be available. It's an important benchmark of the quality of an institution."
Stewart Weaver, chair of Rochester's history department, could not agree more. Miller's gift, said Weaver, has allowed the University to attract "one of the most creative, engaging, and eminent historians of the early American republic writing today."
Thomas Slaughter's intellectual range is simply "breathtaking," said Weaver, particularly during an era of increasing academic specialization. His innovative approach to such well-known subjects as the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion and the Lewis and Clark expedition have "redrawn the contours of his field," Weaver said.
Thomas Slaughter joined the University this fall from the University of Notre Dame, where he was the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, he completed his master's and doctorate at Princeton University. He is the editor of Reviews in American History, a prominent historical journal that will now be centered at the University of Rochester. He has held numerous prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among others.
His fifth book, released this fall, is a biography of the 18th-century mystic John Woolman, a man who despite his iconic influence on antebellum abolitionists and continuing relevance for reformers and pacifists, left little physical record of his existence save for his spiritual journal. "His trail was faint and got fainter," wrote Slaughter. "A wisp of inspiration, a glimmer of insight, a glimpse of the divine, and then he was gone."
To reconstruct Woolman's life, Slaughter immersed himself in Quaker literature of the 17th and 18th century, developing an intuitive approach to "what Woolman lived, read, and wrote" that is the hallmark the book and Slaughter's original insights. The result, in Slaughter's words, "pushes the boundaries between history and fiction."
Slaughter will be officially installed as the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History on May 4.