Campus: San Francisco State University -- August 15, 2000


Leading Legal, Constitutional History Scholar First To Fill An Endowed Chair At S.F. State

San Francisco State University has made its first appointment to an endowed chair at the university, bringing a nationally known scholar on legal and constitutional history in the United States to the campus.

Christopher R. Waldrep, a professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, will fill the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Endowed Chair in History at S.F. State. The appointment was made possible by a $2.4 million donation to the university last spring by S.F. State alumnus Robert B. Pasker and his wife, Laurie Pitman, founders of the high-tech firm WebLogic, Inc. Pasker received his bachelor's degree in history magna cum laude from S.F. State in 1993.

"We had several applications from outstanding constitutional and legal historians from across the country," said Jerald Combs, chair of the history department at S.F. State. "Christopher Waldrep rose to the top by virtue of the profundity of his publications and the excellence of his teaching. He covers the legislative landmarks and high court decisions of our nation's history, but he also concentrates on the way in which these laws and court decisions actually operated at the local level. In working from the bottom up, he brings a great moral force to his books."

This fall Waldrep will teach courses on constitutional history and the history of American violence.

Waldrep, who will be a tenured professor at S.F. State, received widespread attention for his ground-breaking 1998 book on vigilante violence and lynching titled "Roots of Disorder: Race and Criminal Justice in the American South, 1817-1880." In his book, Waldrep looked at how the criminal justice system in Mississippi played a role in shaping the attitudes that encouraged vigilantism. The book won the McLemore Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society for the best book on a Mississippi history topic.

He also is the author of the book "Night Riders: Defending Community in the Black Patch, 1890-1915," which examined how night-riding Kentucky and Tennessee farmers resisted the forces of industrialization. Waldrep is now working on his third book, which will look at the rhetoric of lynching and how the meaning of lynching changed over time in response to political forces.

Waldrep, who earned his doctorate from Ohio State University, joined the faculty at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston in 1990. While he was there, Waldrep put together the law and society concentration in the history department. The program is popular with history majors planning to attend law school. Waldrep and a colleague also developed a 500-page documents reader for Constitution classes.

Of the $2.4 million Pasker-Pittman gift, $1 million established the Jamie and Phyllis Pasker Endowed Chair in History in honor of Pasker's parents.

Virtually all of the remaining $1.4 million will create an endowment where, in perpetuity, funds will be drawn in support of the history department. Some initial operations funds will be used for student scholarships, for equipping a state-of-the-art high technology classroom, and for other pressing departmental needs.

The Pasker-Pitman gift created San Francisco State University's third endowed chair. The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility was created in 1997 with a $1 million gift from the San Francisco-based Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

And the Y.F. Chang Chair in International Business was created last year as the result of a $2 million gift from Y.F. Chang, group chairman and founder of The Evergreen Group, parent company of the world's largest container ship operator, Evergreen Marine Corporation, of EVA Airways and numerous other affiliated businesses. Chairman Chang's gift provided $1 million for an endowed chair and $1 million for an endowment for SFSU's Presidential Scholars Program.

The other two endowed chairs have not been filled yet.


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