Penn State laureate to bring aftermath of Gettysburg battle to New Kensington

April 06, 2016

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. — Penn State Laureate Carol Reardon, the George Winfree Professor of American History at the University Park campus, will bring her Battle of Gettysburg campaign to Penn State New Kensington at noon on Tuesday, April 19, in the Conference Center.

Reardon’s talk, "History versus Heritage: The View from Gettysburg," will look at the battle that changed the American Civil War through two sets of interpretive lenses — history and heritage. The lecture is free to the public.

According to Reardon, history is an intellectual force that seeks an objective, all-encompassing interpretation of the past, based on critical analysis of evidence and seeking an objective ideal that people accept as truth. Heritage is an emotion-based force that views the past through lenses that filter, sanitize, select, sentimentalize, self-aggrandize, and promote a political or social agenda far removed from the historical event itself.

“Sometimes history and heritage follow the same path, but often enough they work at odds with each other,” said Reardon, a military historian who specializes in the study of the Civil War and the Vietnam conflict. “The way we look back on the Battle of Gettysburg, the three bloodiest days in Pennsylvania's military history, can help us understand the difference between history and heritage, how those forces play out even today around such controversies as the flying of the Confederate flag, and underscore why it is essential that we recognize the difference.”

In addition to the lecture, Reardon will meet with campus students in the Civil War America class that is taught by Craig Hammond, associate professor of history. Reardon will discuss how contemporary Americans remember race, slavery and the Civil War.

For more information on Reardon’s talk, contact Hammond at

Carol Reardon
Reardon, who holds a doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky, joined the Penn State faculty in 1996. She was named Winfree professor in 2010. In addition to her professorship, Reardon serves as faculty associate of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center. Based at the University Park campus, the center serves as a resource for interpreting and reflecting on life in 19th-century America.

An author of numerous publications, Reardon’s scholarship includes the award-winning "Pickett's Charge in History and Memory." In the book, she uses the famous Confederate assault at Gettysburg to explore the ways in which the power of memory can shape and, over time, even reshape perceptions of important events.

In 2007, Reardon received the George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest teaching award given by Penn State. Two New Kensington campus faculty members have received the Atherton award — William Hamilton, assistant professor of biology, in 2003, and Maria Franco de Gomez, instructor in Spanish, in 2011. Franco de Gomez retired in 2013.

Penn State laureate
An honorary position established in 2008, the Penn State laureate is a full-time University faculty member in the humanities or fine arts. Assigned half time for one academic year, the laureate brings an enhanced level of social, cultural, artistic and human perspective and awareness to a broad array of audiences. The highly visible representative of Penn State appears regularly at Penn State campus and community events throughout the Commonwealth.

Reardon is using her year as University laureate to encourage informed reflection and open dialogue on war, peace and remembrance.

“As a military historian, I am interested in the causes, conduct, cost and consequences of wars as well as the lessons we learn or — just as important — fail to learn from these transformational events,” Reardon said.

The eighth Penn State laureate, Reardon succeeded Susan Russell, associate professor of theatre. Previous laureates were: Kenneth Womack, associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of English at Penn State Altoona; Chris Staley, distinguished professor of ceramic art; Linda Miller, professor of English at Penn State Abington; Robin Becker, professor of English and women's studies; Anthony Leach, professor of music; and inaugural laureate Kim Cook, professor of music in cello.

The Penn State laureate for the 2016-17 academic year will be Rebecca Strzelec, professor of visual arts at Penn State Altoona. 

For more about Reardon and the Penn State laureate, visit

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Last Updated April 06, 2016