Henry Steele Commager: Celebrating One of Amherst’s Legends

On Saturday, Oct. 27, at 3 p.m. in Pruyne Auditorium (Fayerweather 115), Amherst College honored the life and career of one of America’s most important historians and teachers with a symposium on “Henry Steele Commager: Celebrating One of Amherst’s Legends.” Featuring prominent historians, lawyers and others who knew Commager well, the event marks the end of a year-long special project by the Amherst College Library’s Archives and Special Collections to arrange and describe Commager’s papers, making them available for the public.

Amherst College Will Honor Henry Steele Commager with Symposium on Saturday, Oct. 27

Submitted by Patricia M. Allen

Bob Keiter '57

Submitted by (inactive)
In second semester of 1957, two things were on my mind. First, I had to produce my honors thesis in Am Studs and second, I had to prepare for the NCAA Swimming Championships at the U . North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was assigned to the great Henry Steele Commager just as he was assigned to guide me on my way. We had a good relationship, played ping pong when we should have been slaving away and seemed to enjoy one another. I never got the feeling that he was really interested in my thesis but tolerated me in good spirit.

Paul C. Nagel

Submitted by (inactive)
As for HSC---who I have fallen into the habit of remembering as "Felix," I could add nothing to your memory of him as a colleague---except to repeat the tale I know I passed along to you many eons ago.:::: He and I found ourselves by coincidence in a plane headed from CT to WI where the famed Professor Commager was making some sort of scholarly appearance, while I was going on to MN to a meeting. We sat side by side during the flight, which allowed Felix to hand two books to me, pulled from his green bag. He retained two others.

Commager Recollections

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Former students are invited to recount their memories of Professor Commager. Amherst alumni and community: To view and post comments, please log in using the link at top right. For assistance, please e-mail alumhelp@amherst.edu.

Commager Resources

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  Barzun, Jacques, 1900-99, 194 linear feet. Located at Columbia University Library. A brief description is located at: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eresources/archives/collections/html/4079628.html 

Commager Chronology

Submitted by (inactive)
1902 Oct 25 Born in Pittsburgh, Penn. to James Williams Commager and Anna Elizabeth Dan
1923 Completed Ph.B. at the University of Chicago
1924 Completed M.A.

Henry Steele Commager and the Commager Project

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With the support of former students, family, and friends of Henry Steele Commager, the Amherst College Library's Archives and Special Collections undertook a year-long project (November 2006-October 2007) to arrange and catalogue the papers of Henry Steele Commager. The papers were a gift to the Library from his widow Mary Powlesland Commager. Information about Henry Steele Commager Papers is found at http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/amherst/ma173_main.html.

Kevin O'Donoghue '78

Submitted by (inactive)
I was class of '78. I never took a class from Prof. Commager, but my favorite story was from the late 70's. Bryant Gumbel did a segment for the "Today" show and interviewed Prof. Commager on the War Memorial at the top of Memorial Hill. Gumbel had "cut his teeth" as a sports reporter before making the transition to the "Today" show.

John Merson '66

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In May of 1965 my friends and I were organizing a teach-in about the Vietnam War. As student council president, I was trying to find a well-known speaker who would attract a good crowd. I called Professor Commager and asked if he would meet with us. He invited us to his home near campus and spent more than an hour discussing the war and our plans for the teach-in. Before we left, he agreed to speak at the teach-in where he gave a terrific talk, providing context for the war and the place of dissent in American society.