November 16-17, 2000
ITEM 109-2002-R1100 Authorization to Confer the Title of Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy upon Thomas Wessel; Montana State University-Bozeman
THAT: Upon the occasion of the retirement of Thomas R. Wessel from the faculty of Montana State University, the Board of Regents wishes to express its appreciation for his service to the University, the Montana University System, and the people of the State of Montana.
EXPLANATION: Tom came to MSU in 1972 after earning degrees from Iowa State University and the University of Maryland. He progressed through the ranks at MSU, earning appointment to full professor in1982. During his 27 years at MSU, he spent 13 years as head of this department. Under his guidance, the department doubled its majors, retained its reputation for outstanding teaching, and developed a growing international reputation for its excellence in scholarship.
Despite his heavy administrative load, Professor Wessel shouldered more than a fair share of courses. In addition to U.S. history survey courses, he routinely taught courses in agricultural history, the history of the U.S. constitution, and the era of the Civil War. His classes, while always demanding, were always filled with students who admired Professor Wessel’s grasp of detail and sensitivity to nuance in historical thinking.
Professor Wessel’s scholarship is widely recognized as authoritative in the fields mentioned above. He was invited to author the definitive history of the 4-H club movement in the United States. For more than twenty years, he has investigated and written extensively on the matter of Native American land claims. His expertise has proven so valuable to the U.S. Department of Justice that it has commissioned him to write a number of reports. It is a testimony to his commitment to scholarship that Professor Wessel, although he is “retired”, is now at work on a major book that summarizes his deep knowledge about U.S. government/American Indian legal issues.
In addition to his teaching and scholarship, Professor Wessel also embodied the service tradition of this department. He served on the Bozeman School Board and, for many years, served as the chair of the local chapter of the ACLU.
To sum up, Professor Wessel has earned the rank of Emeritus through his commitments to teaching, research, administration, and public service. He embodied the highest standards of this department and university and of the history profession.
For these and other contributions, the Board of Regents of Higher Education is pleased to confer upon Thomas R. Wessel the rank of Professor Emeritus of History and Philosophy at Montana State University and wishes him well for many pleasant years in the future.