Three Cornell College students will get to explore a historic region of the Bahamas thanks to an endowment set up by family of The Rev. Richard H. Thomas. The award honors the educational legacy of Thomas, professor emeritus of history, chaplain emeritus, and college historian, who remains an important member of the Hilltop and surrounding community.

Three Cornell history majors, KateLynn Hohman ’18, Antonio Guzman ’16, and Kayla Boyd ’18, will use the award for off-campus research.

“This award is part of an endowment that was given by the adult children of Rev. Thomas, who had a very distinguished, long career here,” said Professor of History, Catherine Stewart. “His children wanted to honor that legacy when he retired, and the best way they thought to do that was to create an endowment that would enable our history majors to get off campus for research opportunities and experiential learning opportunities, which is something their dad had really encouraged and facilitated for all of his students.”

The three students will now have the opportunity to study the history of slavery in the Caribbean at the Gerace Research Centre on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas during Block 4 of the 2016-2017 school year. The trip is part of Professor Stewart’s course, Slavery and the Environment in a Comparative Context.  Working with Professor Stewart, they will read the only extant slave plantation holder’s journal for the Bahamas and will examine the historic ruins of the plantation located on the island. They will also have the opportunity to conduct research, and interview elderly residents about traditional practices brought to the Bahamas by African slaves, including bush medicine and traditional methods of cooking.

The Richard H. Thomas History Scholar Award is available to students throughout the year. It is also now available to history minors as well as history majors.

“One thing that is very exciting right now is that we just met with a representative of the family, Cornell Trustee Jan Thomas ’80, and she has agreed to open the award up to history minors as well as majors,” Professor Stewart said. “We have a new history minor that we just approved this year and this will allow those funds to be used by those students who are minoring in history, as well as those students who are majoring in it.”

The history department considers applicants based on set criteria, which includes the student’s academic standing, a completed application, and documentation of financial need.

This group of three students is the second round of awards given since the endowment was set up.

The first recipient of a Richard H. Thomas History Scholar Award for Off-Campus Research was history major Tom Cooke ’15. It allowed him to conduct archival research at The Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, in the fall of 2014, which resulted in his senior honors thesis “The Evolution of Richard Nixon’s Anti-communism, 1946-1950.”

“This is a recent endowment, and it’s one we are particularly excited to have in the history department,” Professor Stewart said. “We have never had a special endowment that would help our students and our majors have these types of important opportunities for off-campus research.”

Students can contact History Department Chair Professor Michelle Herder atmherder@cornellcollege.edu or Professor Catherine Stewart atcstewart@cornellcollege.edu to get more information on how to apply.