Michael Gannon Honored at Alfred J. Hanna Symposium

April 17, 2009

      Michael Gannon
On April 14, Michael Gannon, widely regarded as the preeminent scholar of Florida history, received the first Alfred J. Hanna Award from Rollins College in honor of his contributions to the field.  Gannon, distinguished service professor emeritus of history at the University of Florida, received the award during a two-day symposium that honored Hanna (1893-1978), a Rollins graduate and former history professor and college vice president.

With his booming voice and characteristic good humor, Gannon regaled an audience at Bush Auditorium with his talk: “Florida History in Forty Minutes,” that traced the state’s colorful past from its native people to Spanish colonists to the Post-World War II rise of suburbia. He was introduced by UF historian Jack Davis, who described Gannon’s many activist and academic achievements.

“It was an honor to have such a well-respected scholar here,” said Assistant Professor of History Julian Chambliss, who organized the event for the Rollins’ Florida Studies Initiative.  “By bestowing this honor on Dr. Gannon, we recognize the long history of smart and engaging scholarship about Florida but, more importantly, we remind people of the central position of Rollins College in this field.”

(From left to right) Event organizer Assistant Professor of History Julian Chambliss with Professor of Political Science Rick Foglesong, Melanie Shell-Weiss of Johns Hopkins University and Adjunct Professor Leslie Kemp Poole
Gannon was the first of many speakers and panelists during the symposium that focused on the question:  “Is Florida Important?”  All agreed that the state has played an important role in national politics and history and its growth and changing demographics may portend the country’s future.  One panel discussed urban growth and planning, focusing in part on the changing face of Winter Park, and another session focused on Florida’s varying ethnicity and how it relates to the national experience.

Melanie Shell-Weiss of Johns Hopkins University brought her experience in researching Miami’s social history and the state’s labor, race and gender issues, in providing Wednesday’s key note address.  Shell-Weiss offered her commentary on Florida’s role in today’s world and summed up many of the ideas offered during the conference.

“Melanie Shell-Weiss is a new and very important scholar of Florida and her keynote recognizes that Florida offers the opportunity for important and unique scholarship not just about the local but about the global,” Chambliss said. “We hope the Alfred J. Hanna Symposium will become a new forum for innovative ideas and scholarship.”

Hanna, as Professor and Archivist Wenxian Zhang, noted in an introductory presentation, was an important member of the Rollins community during his long tenure at the college.  His work in Florida and Latin American history was well-regarded and continues to set a standard for excellence.

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