Thursday, September 24, 2020

Graham Peck named the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at UIS

Lincoln scholar Graham Peck has been named the Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield

A virtual Ceremony of Investiture honoring Peck was held on Thursday, Sept. 24 where he received a medallion that symbolizes his position as a distinguished professor. Investitures are a special celebration of academic excellence. At UIS, when a professor is chosen to be an endowed chair or distinguished professor, an investiture takes place. 

“I’m confident that Peck, along with Michael Burlingame, who is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, will continue to establish UIS and Springfield as the place to learn about Illinois’ favorite son,” said UIS Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, while speaking at the ceremony. “Their efforts will be bolstered when The Center for Lincoln Studies opens early next year at UIS.” 

Other speakers at investiture included Provost Dennis Papini, Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science Michael Lemke and Burlingame. Following the remarks, Peck presented a lecture on “Abraham Lincoln and the Making of an Antislavery Nation.” 

Peck came to UIS in 2019 after spending 17 years at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1991 from California State University, Hayward, and received his master’s and doctorate in American history from Northwestern University. Graham’s published scholarship – which includes multiple articles and the book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom” – focuses on antebellum American political history. 

The Wepner Distinguished Professorship was established at UIS as the result of a $1.2 million unrestricted estate gift from a Springfield couple, Wilbur and Margaret Wepner, longtime supporters of UIS. The funds are used for scholarships and the Wepner position. As a member of the Committee for Higher Education in Central Illinois, Wilbur Wepner helped found Sangamon State University in 1969. 

“On behalf of the university, I thank the Wepners for their generous donation,” Whitney said. “Their memory and passionate dedication for their community lives on in their gift. This professorship helps UIS realize one of its primary strategic goals, academic excellence. Philanthropists like the Wepners strengthen UIS.”

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