Dear Academy Members,
November is a time for giving thanks. First, I thank all of you who responded to my invitation in last month’s newsletter to share your experiences. A dozen of you wrote me directly and sixty more filled out the google form. Thank you for taking some of your already over-taxed time to tell me how the Academy needs to do better at valuing all its members. It was gratifying to hear that many respondents appreciated some of the Academy’s recent changes, but it is also clear that much work still remains to be done to make the MAA an organization that meets the needs of all the different vital constituencies within our community. In the months I have left as your president, I will work with Council on immediate steps to address the problems identified, particularly the inclusion and recognition of medievalists from non-elite institutions and those working beyond the tenure track. Thank you for drawing a roadmap to advance equity and compassion in this organization.
Second, in this month of thanksgiving, I want to give thanks to those who supported my fascination with the Middle Ages and I invite you to give thanks too. Lisa will post this on the MAA’s Twitter account so you can add your thanks, sharing the names of those who fostered your love of medieval studies.
First and foremost, I thank Helen M. Simkins, my high school history teacher, who agreed to oversee my independent study of medieval Europe, letting me loose in the library for 50 fabulous minutes a day to read as I pleased. She filled my senior year with encouragement and hope. I thank Terence R. Murphy (1940-2009), whose lectures on medieval and early modern England made me ditch my “practical” goal of a career in journalism and instead major in history at the American University in Washington, DC. He urged me to apply to doctoral programs in history, and for years I refused to believe that someone like me could possibly be smart enough for such a thing. During a memorable visit to his office hours, when I sheepishly asked him if we could talk about graduate studies, an exasperated Professor Murphy said, “you need to stop talking to me about doctoral study and start LISTENING to me!” I am so grateful I finally did. I thank Nelson H. Minnich, who told an astonished MA student that her seminar paper on the council of Pavia-Siena was publishable, providing detailed directions for revision. And I thank David Herlihy (1930-1991), my Doktorvater, for his patience, and his spouse Patricia A. Herlihy (1930-2018), my unofficial Doktormütter, for her encouraging example of mirthful determination in the face of sexism. I thank Nancy and Peter Rabinowitz, founders of the Comparative Literature program that once flourished at Hamilton College, who continue to teach me that collegial generosity is as enduring as it is boundless.
I look forward to your “honor roll” of those who supported you!
Maureen C. Miller, President of the Medieval Academy of America
PS: Keep reading — below are details on the portal where you can nominate yourself or others for next year’s MAA committees (and I thank Executive Director Lisa Fagin Davis and the Academy’s Communications and Membership Coordinator Chris Cole for setting it up!).