The Oregon State University Honors College has named Dr. Christopher McKnight Nichols and Dr. Nancy Squires as the 2021 Honors College Eminent Professors. Dr. Nichols is an associate professor of history in the School of History, Philosophy and Religion and is the director of the Oregon State University Center for the Humanities. Dr. Squires, who passed away in June, 2020, was a senior instructor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering.
The Honors College Eminent Professor awards were created to recognize faculty members for their research, teaching and service to the Honors College.
“Dr. Squires was a transformative mentor and teacher for countless students, both in the Honors College and across campus,” says Honors College Associate Dean Susan Rodgers, who coordinated the selection committee for these awards. “We are pleased to honor her memory with this recognition. Like Dr. Squires, Dr. Nichols expresses his deep commitment and engagement to his field through his teaching, mentoring and service to our community. Both will continue to be inspirations to students, faculty and staff alike.”
Dr. Nichols has been on the faculty at Oregon State since 2012 and became the director of the Center for the Humanities in 2017. His research on the cultural, intellectual, and political history of the United States from 1880 to the present, particularly the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the world, has been widely lauded, and he contributes regularly to public discourse about contemporary political and diplomatic events through writings in a variety of venues, including the Washington Post, the Oregonian and Politico, and in a commentary on radio, television and podcast programs and in public speaking appearances. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of five books, with two more in progress, and he was recognized with an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2016.
Dr. Nichols has worked closely with the Honors College and honors students throughout his career at Oregon State. He has mentored five honors students in their thesis research (a thesis is a requirement of the Honors College curriculum) and served on many more thesis committees. He has taught or co-taught two honors courses, most recently a seminar on citizenship in spring of 2020, while serving as a guest in several other classes. In 2014, he was voted as the annual Outstanding Professor by Honors College students, and he has, himself, nominated a number of students for college awards and served on scholarship committees. In 2019, he led in developing a jointly-funded summer internship partnership between the Honors College and the Center for the Humanities. He was also instrumental in establishing the Oregon State University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 2016 and has served as chapter president for the last three years. A committee of faculty peers cited his combination of service, mentorship, leadership and scholarship for recognition in naming Dr. Nichols the 2021 Sandy and Elva Sanders Eminent Professor in the Honors College.
“This is a wonderful surprise,” he says. “I have loved my time teaching honors students in the classroom, as well as overseeing and participating in an array of internships and professionalization efforts that have helped to pave the way for successful law and graduate school applications and fantastic early career opportunities. I am honored and delighted to receive the Sandy and Elva Sanders Eminent Professor Award.”
Dr. Squires taught at Oregon State for 15 years, and she led in the development of the aerospace engineering program at OSU and in the establishment of a number of student clubs, including a branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Her abilities in the classroom and as a mentor were renowned throughout the College of Engineering, and she shaped the lives and professional trajectories of hundreds of students during her career.
For the past decade, Dr. Squires taught in the Honors College almost every year, often for multiple terms, leading a variety of introductory and advanced engineering courses and seminars on satellite missions and, in advance of the 2017 total eclipse visible in Corvallis, solar eclipses. She was also the official mentor for six Honors College thesis projects and a committee member for many more. Her work as an advocate for the college and the university’s engineering programs was determinative in many students’ decisions to attend Oregon State, as well. The award committee cited her unique impact on students as a mentor and teacher in recognizing Dr. Squires as the 2021 Thomas and Margaret Meehan Eminent Professor in the Honors College. The award associated with this recognition has been contributed to the Nancy Squires Memorial Aerospace Engineering Endowment Fund.
Honors College Eminent Professor awards are currently supported by gifts from Joseph (Sandy) and Cheryl Sanders and the Margaret and Thomas Meehan Estate.
By: Cassidy Parker