Arthur Mattingly Brought History to Life

Arthur Mattingly, history prof, SEMO c 1966When Jim Stone headed off to Ohio University, he and I would trade audio tapes instead of letters. It’s almost painful to listen to the two of us half a century later, but I was playing part of one the other day and heard myself describing my history prof: “He’s talking when he walks into the room, and he’s still talking when the bell rings and people are walking out.”

That was Arthur Mattingly, one of the best profs I had at SEMO or Ohio University.

Founded historic preservation program with Dr. Nickell

The Missourian had a story in 2006 saying that Dr. Mattingly and Dr. Frank Nickell were being recognized for founding SEMO’s historic preservation program 25 years earlier. A 1973 article he wrote does the best job I’ve ever read in explaining the value of historic preservation and how “old” doesn’t always translate into valuable.

Taught history in present tense

Arthur Mattingly, history prof, SEMO c 1966 One of the things I liked about him was that he delighted in debunking all those myths about history that we had been taught from grade school on. His accounts of battles were told in the present tense. He didn’t dwell on dates and troop movements, he made you feel like the enemy was going to come up over that rise any minute.

He, John C. Bierk, and Fred Goodwin are three SEMO profs I remember well.

Things are going to slow down here

I got a call from a perky and squealing Curator Jessica this morning. A grant we had applied for to put on a week-long workshop in Athens, Ohio, in August was approved. Since I really hadn’t expected it to get funded, I drug my feet on preparing for it.

I have to pull together an update for my Smelterville project by July, figure out what I’m going to do convince a bunch of amateur photographers that shooting pictures today with history in mind is fun, and knock off my Last Generation project for an Immigration Conference in Altenburg in October.

To get everything done, I’m going to have to throw some babies out of the lifeboat. I can’t give up food, sleep and afternoon naps, so it’ll be blog posts that go splash. I may plug in re-runs so you don’t forget about me.

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John C. Bierk

SEMO English Professor John C. Bierk 1966This is going to sound like a contradiction that John C. Bierk would have marked me down for, but the English professor was one of the handful of instructors I remember from SEMO, but, for the life of me, I can’t recall why.

I had him for Freshman English, the year before I shot this photo of him for The Sagamore (which has been consigned to the dustbin of journalism). He wasn’t an engaging lecturer like Arthur Mattingly, the history prof who taught American History in the present tense and could make you see the enemy sneaking up over the rise. He didn’t have the easy style of speech and debate teacher Fred Goodwin.

He was a man who set high standards for his students and wouldn’t accept anything less than their best. I ran across my old SEMO transcript not long ago, but don’t know what grade he gave me. I had a 3.75 grade point average when I transferred to Ohio University, so I couldn’t have done too badly in his class.

I did quick Google and Southeast Missourian searches without finding much. One surprising thing was that he became a prolific Letters to the Editor writer after his 1957-1987 academic career. He was a lot more liberal than I would have thought from his class demeanor.

Did anyone else have him? What do you recall about him?