Former Hamilton professor’s gift establishes endowed chair

By Kaitlin McCabe '16

New York State historian and Hamilton alumnus David M. Ellis ’38 and his wife, Carolyn, have donated $1.6 billion to the College, a gift that will support an endowed chair in their name—the Ellis Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

Ellis graduated Phi Beta Kappa and received honors in history, philosophy and political science.  After pursuing a master’s and a Ph.D., he returned to the Hill in 1946 as an assistant professor of history. That same year, he also published his first book, Landlords and Farmers in the Hudson-Mohawk Region, 1790-1850, for which he earned the American Historical Association’s Dunning Prize.

Ellis has been called an expert on the New York’s history by a host of scholars. His academic work includes 10 books which he authored or co-authored, including New York: The Empire State, which became a standard grade-school text, and A History of New York State, in addition to dozens of articles, papers and book reviews.

Ellis’ expertise on New York state history earned him various professional appointments during his career; he was president of the New York State American Studies Association and membership on the executive council of the American Studies Association. He was also a fellow and trustee of the New York State Historical Association and served as the president of the Oneida County Historical Society from 1980 to 1990.

The Alumni Association presented Ellis with its Bell Ringer Award in 1987 to recognize his dedication to the College; three years later, Hamilton awarded him an honorary degree for his exceptional teaching and scholarship.

The Ellis Distinguished Teaching Professorship will be awarded on a rotating basis to a faculty member who has achieved distinction through scholarship and teaching.  Candidates are selected based upon their demonstration of an outstanding commitment to the professional development of fellow faculty members and to the intellectual development of students.

Dean of Faculty Patrick Reynolds recently named Professor of Comparative Literature Peter Rabinowitz as the first recipient of the Carolyn C. and David M. Ellis ’38 Distinguished Teaching Professorship.

Dean Reynolds said in a press release from Hamilton C&D that the inaugural recipient has “a long career of excellence in teaching and scholarship, during which he has displayed an enduring commitment to and engagement in faculty governance, the mentorship of early career faculty members and the intellectual development of students.”

Prior to teaching at the College, Rabinowitz received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.  He then taught at Kirkland College from 1974 until it merged with Hamilton College in 1978.

Currently, Rabinowitz is co-editor of the Ohio State University Press Series on Theory and Interpretation of Narrative. He is the author of Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and The Politics of Interpretation and the co-author of Authorizing Readers: Resistance and Respect in the Teaching of Literature and of Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates. That latter was notably among ten books selected by Choice as an “Outstanding Academic Title” for 2012. Various essays written by Rabinowitz have appeared in academic journals, notably PMLA, Critical Inquiry, Black Music Research Journal and 19th-Century Music. He additionally writes in non-academic music publications and is a contributing editor of Fanfare and a regular contributor to the International Record Review.


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