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Remembering Patrick Riddleberger

The Department of Historical Studies celebrates the life of Patrick Riddleberger, Professor Emeritus, who died Saturday, June 4, 2011. He had a long and happy life, and he was truly beloved.

A Virginian, he served our country in World War II and fought in North Africa against the German forces commanded there by Erwin Rommel. The English historian Edward Gibbon remarked that his early military service greatly benefitted his later work as an historian, and that was also the case with Patrick. Thereafter, Patrick earned his PhD at the University of California Berkeley where he studied under the direction of Kenneth M Stampp. This education shaped Patrick's entire professional life and outlook. He studied the American Civil War and wrote about it and taught about it for his whole academic career.

Arriving in 1960, he spent the rest of his long life in Edwardsville, soon becoming a fixture on campus. He kept an office on campus after he retired, and he usually spent part of the day in his office. Always available to chat with students and faculty, Patrick did a great deal to form the outlook of countless SIUE historians, young and old alike. Nor was his influence limited to historians. Patrick had what the German scholar Max Weber called charisma. Patrick spoke with authority, and he often had strong opinions, but he also had a knack for making himself agreeable even to those whose views differed from his.

We celebrate Patrick's life, and we give thanks for the years he spent among us.

Ernest Schusky, Professor Emeritus of Anthology, contributed a memoir of Patrick during the early years that they shared at SIUE, and that memoir appears here.

Patrick Riddleberger and I arrived at the Alton Campus in the fall of 1960. We had adjoining offices in a private home that housed two classrooms and the social science faculty. Students and faculty found him readily available, and he soon won the love and respect of all who knew him.

He and his wife, Patricia, hosted frequent gatherings at their home in Godfrey. Because of his graciousness and good humor, social science faculty met professors in humanities, fine arts, and science. Both national and campus politics stimulated the gatherings, and when the Edwardsville faculty thought to separate from Carbondale, Patrick led our discussions with both common sense and experience. His leadership quickly grew to be recognized campus-wide.

Patrick never hesitated to take a stand on issues while retaining his composure and good sense. Antiwar feelings prevailed on the campus, and many of us turned to him for advice and guidance. By this time the community also recognized Patrick for his leadership and wisdom. He led in organizing Madison County citizens opposed to the Vietnam War. He was as aware of current events as anyone and added his knowledge of history to lead us in understanding the situation and what we might do to change it.

In the seventies swelling numbers of faculty and students made it difficult for Patrick and me to stay close, but I often met undergraduates who told me what a stimulating and conscientious professor he was. Graduate students in American history described him as a demanding but outstanding professor who often became a friend as well as mentor. He well deserved all the honors bestowed on him by the university.

An oral history interview with Patrick is available on the SIUE University Archives web site.


CUSP Project Online

Students in the Practicum in Museum and Exhibition Development digitized several years of work from the CUSP (Conjunctions, Ubjects, Stories, Places) project. Using the Omeka web publishing program, the students created an online archive of photographs and oral history interviews. The site is available to the public and allows community members to comment on specific "ubjects."


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