Arts & Humanities

2016 Arrington Lecture Features Patty Limerick and 'Hair-Raising Tales'

Patty Limerick is the featured speaker for the 2016 Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture. She presents "Hair-Raising Tales from the Department of the Interior" Thursday, Sept.29, 7 p.m., Logan LDS Tabernacle, 50 N. Main Street, Logan. The lecture is free.

Hair raising tales from government workers and clerks? Yes, according to Patty Limerick, American West historian, author, teacher and the featured guest for the 2016 Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture in Logan.

Limerick presents “Hair-Raising Tales from the Department of the Interior” Thursday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., at the Logan LDS Tabernacle, 50 North Main Street. The lecture is free and open to all.

The Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture is sponsored by USU Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries; the Leonard J. Arrington Lecture and Archives Foundation; the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Utah State University.

“We are honored to have Dr. Patricia Limerick deliver the Arrington Lecture this year,” said Ross Peterson, a member of the Arrington Foundation board and well-known writer, historian and Utah State University administrator. “As an award-winning historian, she presents a unique and refreshing analysis of what government servants do and feel as they work for the common good. This distinguished scholar is one of the great historians of the American West and her topic fits well with much of Leonard Arrington’s research and writing.”

Leonard Arrington, the namesake of the lecture series, was a well-known historian and author and an economist. The “how and why” of Western development were important to him. The annual lecture honors Arrington, whose papers were donated to Special Collections and Archives, a division in USU’s University Libraries. Part of the gift agreement was to offer an annual lecture on some facet of Mormon history.

Brad Cole, dean for University Libraries and former director of Special Collections and Archives, coordinates the lecture series on behalf of USU. He has a long association with both the lecture series and the Arrington Foundation.

“I believe that we have met Leonard’s expectations for the lecture series,” Cole said in a previous interview. “We’ve had a mix of historians with long careers as well as those just making a name for themselves. We’ve balanced the series between current themes and long standing themes of Mormon history.”

Cole is pleased that Limerick brings a part of the West’s development to the lecture series as well as some contemporary considerations.

“I am excited because this topic speaks to Leonard Arrington’s greater interest in the history of the American West and how Mormon history fits under that greater umbrella of western history,” he said.

Limerick is the faculty director and chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she is also a professor of environmental studies and history. Additionally, Limerick has been named to serve as the new Colorado State Historian and has been appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities advisory board. She was nominated by President Obama in spring 2015 and was confirmed by the United States Senate in November 2015. She is a prolific author and has received numerous awards, including a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (MacArthur ‘Genius’ award) and the Hazel Barnes Prize, the University of Colorado’s highest award for teaching and research.

“We are thrilled to have Patty Limerick as this year’s lecturer,” Cole said. “She is a renowned western historian whose current work chronicling employees of the Department of the Interior is a timely topic given the current status and thinking about western federal lands.

“The topic also resonates with USU because many prominent local and national land managers, forest and park rangers and wildlife scientists attended our university, primarily in the College of Natural Resources college over the past decades and have gone on to work for federal agencies.”

Cole calls Limerick an “engaging and lively” lecturer. The lecture is based on a series of interviews conducted with interior employees between 2004 and 2006.

“Contrary to the stereotype of the boring bureaucrat, the stories of the men and women who have worked for the agencies in the Department of the Interior carry intrinsic interest and give rise to thought-provoking interpretations of, and insights into, the American West’s past and present,” Limerick writes about the lecture. “Enormously important in the shaping of the American West, federal employees have been unjustly and inaccurately classified as ‘boring.’”

Cole believes the issue of western lands and the relationship to the federal government should be of interest to all contemporary residents of the West.

“Patty brings to this topic the desire to inform and also to create dialogue around the issues surrounding federal land holdings in the West,” he said.

A writing competition for the region’s college and university students is a part of the lecture. The competition encourages a continuation of the lecture’s namesake’s scholarly tradition and legacy. Cash awards are presented to the top three students who submit essays based on the lecture. Contact USU’s Special Collections and Archives for details, (435) 797-2663.

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Writer: Patrick Williams, 435-797-1354,

Contact: Brad Cole, 435-797-8268,

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