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Distinguished historian, librarian Kevin Starr to be awarded honorary doctorate

April 6, 2011

Kevin O. Starr (Photo/San Francisco Sentinel)

Chapman University will award an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to eminent historian and California State Librarian Emeritus Kevin O. Starr, Ph.D., at a banquet in Starr’s honor to be held on Saturday, April 9, at 5 p.m. in Beckman Hall. 

The banquet is the concluding event for the day-long Southern California Regional Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society Conference, a meeting that will feature more than 70 student research presentations and bring nearly 150 area undergraduate and graduate history students and faculty to the Chapman campus.

“Dr. Starr, hailed as the foremost scholar of California history, exemplifies the ideal of excellence that we aim to instill in our students,” said James L. Doti, Ph.D., president of Chapman University.  “His outstanding, interrelated contributions to academia in the areas of history, political science, librarianship and urban planning demonstrate the worth of interdisciplinarity, an intellectual path we prize at Chapman.  It’s a great honor to our university that he has accepted this recognition, and we feel privileged that Dr. Starr has chosen to participate in Chapman University’s 150th Anniversary celebration with his upcoming visit.”

“Dr. Starr has achieved national stature as one of the most eminent intellectuals of our time,” said Daniele Struppa, Ph.D., Chapman University’s chancellor.  “His scholarship has brilliantly illuminated the economic, social and cultural forces that shaped California – it is a magnificent achievement.”

Dr. Starr served as State Librarian of California and chief executive officer of the Library of California from 1994 to 2004, and currently serves as State Librarian Emeritus.  As State Librarian, he was a staunch advocate of increased visibility and funding for the California State Library and libraries throughout the state.   Since 1998, Dr. Starr has held an appointment as university professor and professor of history in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California.  He has also served as professor of urban and regional planning at USC, professor of communication arts at the University of San Francisco, and assistant professor of American literature at Harvard University.

Dr. Starr’s multi-volume series of books, Americans and the California Dream, explores in comprehensive detail the history of California from 1851 to 2003 and has been lauded as a monumental historical achievement.

 “Not since Toynbee’s or the Durants’ universal histories has a seven-volume history of anything been essayed, and no other American state has ever been the subject of such attention,” said Publisher’s Weekly. One volume in the series, Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963, won the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History.

In addition to that series, Dr. Starr has written several monographs, many book chapters and hundreds of articles and reviews.  From 1994 to 2000 he was a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times, and prior to that was a daily columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

Among his many awards, Dr. Starr received the prestigious National Humanities Medal in 2006, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006, and the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.  He was inducted into the California Museum’s California Hall of Fame in 2010.

Kevin Starr holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of San Francisco and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American literature from Harvard University.   He previously spoke at Chapman University in 1987 as part of the Freshman Seminar Program, and will speak at the April 9-10 meeting of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honorary at Chapman.  He has also contributed the foreword to the forthcoming book Chapman University 1861-2011, which will be published by the university in celebration of its 150th Anniversary.

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