Campus News

U. of Kentucky professor will give this year’s McBee Lecture

John Thelin

John Thelin, a research professor in the history of higher education and public policy at the University of Kentucky, will be the keynote speaker for the 24th annual Louise McBee Lecture Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. in Mahler Auditorium of the UGA Hotel and Conference Center. The venue is a change from the Chapel, where the lecture was held for the previous 23 years. 

Thelin will discuss “Academic Procession: Presidents and -Professors from Past to Present.” He will focus primary attention on academic presidents and their historically changing roles and challenges leading from the past to important episodes of the present. The role of professors will be intertwined in the topic as well. Thelin will cover recent events that depict the challenges and role of present-day presidents (e.g., the University of Virginia and Pennsylvania State University).

Thelin brings historical writing and research to contemporary discussions about significant and enduring higher education issues. His latest book, A History of American Higher Education, offers a distinctive approach to the history of colleges and universities—especially campus life—as part of American popular culture. 

The author of six books, Thelin also writes articles and book reviews and reviews manuscripts for many of the leading scholarly journals in history and higher education. His chapters on higher education topics have been published in The Encyclopedia of American Social History, The Encyclopedia of Educational Research and The Encyclopedia of Higher Education. In addition to writing for scholarly journals, he has had essays published in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education. His upcoming book focuses on rising college costs and the economics of higher education. 

During his tenure at the University of Kentucky, Thelin has received a Great Teacher award and the University Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition, the American Educational Research Association conferred on him the Exemplary Research Award for Postsecondary and Higher Education research, and he is the recipient of the Outstanding Research Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education, for which he served as the organization’s president.

A 1969 alumnus of Brown University, Thelin initially concentrated his scholarship in European history. He earned a master’s degree in American history, a doctoral degree in the history of education and was a Regents Fellow, all at the University of California at Berkeley.  He is a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s higher education working group in Washington, D.C.