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Dr. Virginia Leonard at the CAS Awards Reception

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Dr. Virginia Leonard to Retire from WIU History Department

May 11, 2010

Prof. Virginia Leonard will be retiring from the WIU Department of History after the Spring 2010 semester. She joined the faculty of the WIU History Department in the Fall of 1977 as the Department's specialist in Latin American history, after earning her Ph.D. from the University of Florida. She was honored for her many years of dedicated service to the university, its students, and her profession at the Spring 2010 College of Arts and Sciences Awards Reception.

Dr. Leonard has taught advanced undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on colonial and modern Latin American history and introductory U.S. history surveys for 33 years at Western. As just one indication of her dedication to the Department's mission of providing WIU's students with the best possible education, on more than one occasion since the 1970s, she has taken her graduate students to regional professional conferences, where they have presented their own historical research papers for peer review.

Prof. Leonard's own historical research focuses on Latin America. She spent a recent sabbatical year in Washington, D.C., Cuba, Spain, and England, conducting research and presenting a paper on "The Amistad Case of 1839" at Cambridge University in England. She has also done research in Argentina on church-state relations, and in Costa Rica on the American community in that nation. Among her many publications, the most notable are her book, Politicians, Pupils, and Priests: Argentine Education since 1943, and her article in the Catholic Historical Review on "Education and the Church-State Clash in Argentina, 1945-55," which won the Peter Guilday Prize from the American Catholic Historical Association. She has also given research presentations at more than 20 international academic conferences and at more than 30 national and regional conferences.

Dr. Leonard's numerous awards and honors include a Fulbright Research Award (to conduct research in Argentina), an American Council of Learned Societies Travel Grant, an American Historical Association Fellowship for Women's Studies, an Organization of American States Fellowship to Argentina, a National Defense Education Act Fellowship, and four National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar and Summer Institute Fellowships.

Dr. Leonard has also served on the Fulbright National Screening Committee that selected graduate student scholars planning to study in Latin America, has been Senior Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Education's National Faculty Exchange, and has guest lectured for the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. State Department. She is on the Executive Council of the Association of Third World Studies, and has served as President of the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies, as well as serving on the Book Prize Committee for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians. Her international reputation in the field of Latin American history has resulted during this past academic year alone in invitations to travel to Africa, where she presented a paper at a conference in Ghana, and to travel to Russia, to give a keynote address at the Moscow Institute for Economics, Politics, and the Law.

Among her many service contributions to WIU's faculty and students, she was for many years a member of the History Department's Personnel Committee and a member of the History Graduate Committee; she also served the College faculty as Chair of the CAS Faculty Council, and served all WIU faculty as Chair of the University Personnel Committee. Most recently, Dr. Leonard was chosen as the Faculty Vice President of WIU's chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the national interdisciplinary honorary society.

Dr. Leonard has also been active in service to our community, most notably through the League of Women Voters and the Unitarian Fellowship. She has also made more than 50 presentations to campus and community groups here in Macomb and in the surrounding region over the past several decades.

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