CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will host an all-day conference on Saturday, April 20, that will highlight the history of the American West - at the same time, honoring a recently retired OSU history professor who is acknowledged as one of the leaders in that field.

"History of the American West: A Symposium in Honor of William Robbins" is drawing a number of scholars to the OSU campus to present their latest research, and to honor Robbins, a former professor of history and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who retired last year after more than 30 years on the Oregon State faculty.

"Bill Robbins has been one of our most respected and well-liked teachers and scholars for years," said Kay Schaffer, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "We were able to attract scholars of the American West from all over for the conference because they all wanted to pay tribute to Bill and the work that he has done."

The conference, which is free and open to the public, begins at 9:30 a.m. in Memorial Union Room 208. The topics and speakers include:

  • "What's New? Westerners' Unbroken Quest for Homogeneity," by Jay Taylor, Iowa State University;


  • "Ordinary People, Global Ties," by Katrine Barbara, Portland State University;


  • "Nature and Mining in the 20th-Century West," by Katherine Morrissey, University of Arizona;


  • "The Country in the City: The Natural History of the San Francisco Bay Area," by Richard Walker, University of California-Berkeley;


  • "Troubled Waters: Riparian Conflict and Change in Oregon's Malheur Basin," by Nancy Langston, University of Wisconsin;


  • "Environmental and Social Impacts of Forestry in Tropical and Temperate Regions," by Patricia Marchak, University of British Columbia;


  • "Bill Robbins: An Appreciation, of Sorts," by Paul Hirt, Washington State University.

The presentations will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. William Lang of Portland State University will chair both sessions.

Robbins, who carried the title of distinguished professor of history at OSU, is the author of several books on the history of the Pacific Northwest and the American West, including "The Oregon Story, 1800-1940," which was nominated for an Oregon Book Award.

His work has been characterized by sensitivity to the connections between the region's economic, political and cultural history, said Paul Farber, chair of the Department of History at OSU.

During his career, Robbins has received numerous honors and awards, including several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Oregon Committee for the Humanities.

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Paul Farber, 541-737-3421