Tributes from fellows of the Clements Jr. Center for Southwest Studies

The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies provides annual fellowships designed to provide time for scholars to bring book-length manuscripts on Southwestern America or the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to completion. Following are tributes to Clements for the opportunities he helped create through the Center.

William P. Clements Jr., who died May 26, funded the founding of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in 1996. The Center provides annual fellowships designed to provide time for scholars to bring book-length manuscripts on Southwestern America or the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to completion. Following are tributes to Clements and the Center from Center Fellows for the opportunities they received:

Flannery Burke
Associate Professor of History
St. Louis University
Clements Center Fellow, 2003-2003

I best remember Gov. Clements at an SMU-in-Taos lecture series, where I was presenting my work. I wanted, quite desperately, to please him, which may well have been the first time in my life that I wanted to please a Texan. There must have been 150 people in the room, but my only concern was that Clements felt his investment had been well placed as I had just finished my post-doctoral fellowship at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, the most supportive and challenging environment I had ever experienced. From the high standards of the late David Weber, the Center’s founding director, to the warm climate created by Executive Director Andrea Boardman and Coordinator Ruth Ann Elmore, to my fellow "fellas" and the extraordinary team of historians in the department, every day felt like a gift. At that lecture, I was just a few weeks away from beginning my first tenure-track job and felt a great responsibility to do good work, and do the Center proud.

Work took me first to California State University, Northridge and then to St. Louis University. My association with the Clements Center raised my profile for both of the search committees. Borderlands scholarship is highly regarded at SLU now where I am an associate professor, and I feel I owe my job to the Clements Center. When Father Jack Bannon, a mentor of David Weber’s, finished his career at SLU, his friends endowed the Bannon Chair in American History at SLU. My colleagues knew of the Clements Center, and David’s work, long before my application crossed their desks. The luxury of my time at the Center to improve my book, including the addition of stunning color images, courtesy of the Clements Center, certainly didn’t hurt my credentials.

I know the Center will continue to thrive. David Weber provided a sturdy foundation for the generations of excellent scholars who have passed through its doors, and future scholars will keep its standards of excellence, collegiality and passion for the Southwest alive. I feel so lucky to be part of the Center’s community, and grateful still for those who made it possible.

Brian DeLay
Associate Professor of History
University of California, Berkeley
Clements Center Fellow, 2005-2006

Like several dozen of my colleagues in this country and in Mexico, I owe a large debt of gratitude to Gov. Clements and was saddened to learn of his passing. In 2005-2006 I had the great opportunity and privilege of spending a year at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies that he and the late David Weber, founding director, created at SMU. That year was spent in excellent company amidst much friendship and creative energy, and provided me with the precious time and counsel necessary to write a long article, revise another and rework key elements of my book manuscript. My year at the Center made me a better historian and enabled me to write a better book. More broadly, over the past 15 years the Center has helped transform the field. Borderlands history is now stronger and more interesting than it has ever been. No institution has contributed as much to this happy evolution as the Clements Center. It is my sincere hope that in the coming years the friends of the Center will sustain and advance the legacy built by Bill Clements’ generosity, vision and passion for history.

Juliana Barr
Associate Professor of History
University of Florida, Gainesville
Clements Center Fellow, 1999-2000

I became personally attached to the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies as a junior fellow, holding the 1999-2000 Summerfield-Roberts Fellowship, and the experience exerted a tremendous influence on my professional career.

In my interactions with the late David Weber, the Center’s founding director, other fellows and area scholars, I learned to see across the national borders that divide the Americas and its regional historiographies, and that I cannot write the history of the Indian and Spanish peoples of New Spain's northern provinces without paying equal consideration to processes playing out of other regions of Latin America. Intellectually, then, the Clements Center helped me to better contextualize my work, to see beyond borderlands, borders and territorial crossings and imagine the history of the Americas as a hemispheric project.

With its grounding in both Latin America and North America and its focus on 500 years of history in the regions along the United States-Mexican border, the Clements Center has offered an invaluable bridge, in scholarship and among scholars,to rejoin the historic Americas. In doing so, it has fueled shifts in American historiography that make it undeniable that the origins and identity of North America in general, and the U.S. specifically, are as rooted in the Southwest as in the Anglo-American colonies of the British Empire. In only 15 years of scholarship and public outreach, the Center’s heady accomplishments stand as testament to Gov. Clements’ vision of and commitment to the region and its history.

(*The Summerfield Roberts Fellowships are fundamentally the same as the Clements Center-named fellowships, but are funded from a different donor. Barr’s book resulting from the fellowship and her work at the Clements Center, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) has won numerous awards.)

Julia Camacho
Assistant Professor of History
University of Texas at El Paso
Clements Center Fellow, 2007-2008

I send my heartfelt condolences. I truly appreciate all of the work and support of Gov. Clements. His vision has meant a tremendous amount to the history of the Southwest.

The fellowship at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies has meant a great deal in my career. The generous support of the Center helped bring my project to fruition. My book is now under contract with UNC Press and should be out next spring.

The Center’s provocative manuscript workshop was invaluable, and the feedback continued to be useful as I continued to research and revise. Being part of a network of scholars, moreover, has been important in helping me make key connections with other scholars in, and beyond, my field. It is fulfilling and rewarding to be part of such a dynamic intellectual community, and I appreciate the Center’s continued support in the years since my fellowship.

Cynthia Radding
Gussenhoven Distinguished Professor of History and Latin American Studies
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Clements Center Fellow, 2007

It is my great pleasure to reiterate to you, in remembrance of former Gov. William P. Clements (1917-2011) and in tribute to the late David J. Weber (1940-2010), the founding director of the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, the significance of the Bill and Rita Clements Senior Fellowship that I was privileged to hold during spring semester 2007. The time for research that the fellowship afforded me enabled important progress on my research project concerning colonial-era environmental history and ethnohistory, and to revise the research design, now titled: Bountiful Deserts and Imperial Shadows: Seeds of Knowledge and Corridors of Migration in Northern New Spain. No less important, the lively intellectual environment of the Clements Center through its workshops, in-house seminars, and conferences, the leadership and mentoring of David J. Weber, and the always collegial and welcoming spirit of the Clements Center staff, created a wonderfully supportive experience for reflection and writing. In addition, the resources and staff of SMU’s DeGolyer Library enhanced the residential fellowship in very important ways. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that it gave me and for the continuing relationship I have enjoyed with the Clements Center.

I had the good fortune to meet the late Gov. Clements during my fellowship at a luncheon arranged by David Weber. Gov. Clements’ humor and knowledge of regional history left a lasting impression on me and the other fellows, especially as we observed the wit and conversational rhythm between the benefactor and director of the Clements Center. Undoubtedly, the vision of historian and educator David J. Weber combined with the generosity of Clements, established an enduring legacy for scholarship and teaching at SMU.

Sami Lakomäki
Fulbright Scholar
Clements Center Fellow, 2010–2011

Having just finished my year as a fellow at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, I still remain somewhat dazed, even in awe, of that wonderful experience. The Clements Center is truly a powerhouse of multi-disciplinary research on the American Southwest, as well as borderlands in general, but it also is an amazing community where the personal and professional sides of academic life blend in a way that gave me unique support, encouragement, and inspiration during my time there.

Without a question, the fellowship year has made me a better scholar. Also without question, the Center has had, and will continue to have, a tremendous impact on multiple fields such as history, anthropology, geography, and Native American Studies. While I cannot yet know how my particular experience will shape my life, I feel deeply grateful for all the people whose vision, wisdom, and generosity made the experience possible, and who continue to give opportunities to other scholars to enjoy similar experiences. These people include, of course, both Gov. William P. Clements and the late David Weber, the Center’s founding director, as well as everyone who works at the Center. To all of you: kiitos.

Brian Frehner
Assistant Professor of History
Oklahoma State University
Clements Center Fellow, 2004-2005

Having the privilege to spend a year as a fellow at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies was the single most important experience in helping me launch my career as a historian. What I found most special about spending time at the Center was the intellectually exciting and positive atmosphere created by the people who work there. I first encountered this spirit after receiving a short-term fellowship to research collections in SMU’s DeGolyer Library. While I researched, Clements Center Executive Director Andrea Boardman personally visited the archive and invited me to lunch with the fellows. I quickly sensed an atmosphere in which people freely and openly discussed ideas and offered insight in a constructive and supportive manner. Little did I know that soon I would have the privilege to enjoy such opportunities on a daily basis when I received a post-doctoral fellowship.

I learned that conversations quickly morphed into concrete projects. For example, a discussion I had with the late David Weber, the Center’s founding director, regarding energy development on Native American lands resulted in a public symposium, and an anthology sponsored by the Clements Center, Indians and Energy: Exploitation and Opportunity in the American Southwest, published last year by SAR Press.

Of course, every fellow cherishes the manuscript workshop in which leading scholars provide guidance and feedback to transform works in progress into published books. I have consulted this feedback many times while revising the manuscript for Finding Oil: The Nature of Petroleum Geology, 1859-1920, to be published this year by University of Nebraska Press.

I never had the opportunity to meet Gov. Clements, but I thank him, as well as all those who support the Clements Center for the opportunities it has presented to scholars like me, and the impact it has had on many professional lives.

Stephanie Lewthwaite
Lecturer in American History
University of Nottingham
Clements Center Fellow, 2010

Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Gov. Clements while a fellow at SMU in the spring of 2010. I am truly sorry to hear the news of his passing, and want to extend my deepest gratitude for all his work in supporting the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and the fellowship program.

Having arrived at SMU from the United Kingdom, where so few scholars specialize in research on the United States Southwest, the fellowship provided me with a rare and invaluable opportunity. For the very first time, I could immerse myself in an environment dedicated to the study of the Southwest.  Being surrounded by fellows of a like mind, drawing on the expertise of the late Professor David Weber, the Center’s founding director, and SMU’s community of historians, and attending the numerous workshops and conferences organized by the Center, was a truly privileged experience.

I remain grateful to everyone in the Center for the generosity and, in particular, for the openness in welcoming scholars working outside the U.S. into the fellowship program. The Center’s recognition in the field of Southwest Studies has certainly assisted my career, and I am now completing the manuscript for a U.S. university press for Mediating Art Worlds: Cross-Cultural Encounters and Hispano Artists, 1930-1960, a work which began at the Center.

The intellectual rigor of the Center is matched by the hospitality of staff and fellows. I will not forget the lively, engaging and supportive atmosphere that I found at SMU, not to mention the equally excellent resources available for fellows during their term. I have no doubt that these qualities, with the hard work of all the staff, will remain integral to the Center’s future success, and I extend my thanks for being given such a wonderful opportunity.

Matthew Liebmann
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Harvard University
Clements Center Fellow, 2010

While a fellow at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies in the fall of 2010, I met Gov. Clements at the memorial service for David Weber, the Center’s founding director. The Governor’s warmth and wit was immediately apparent, as was his knowledge of the history of the American Southwest. His visionary leadership in founding the Center played a vital role in the improvement and publication of my research.

The Center offered an intellectually challenging, creative, and supportive home during the writing process for Burn the Churches, Smash the Bells: An Archaeological History of Native Independence in the Wake of the Pueblo Indian Revolt, now under contract with University of Arizona Press, for which I will be forever grateful.

As an archaeologist studying Pueblo Indian resistance and rebellion in 17th century New Mexico, I found the opportunity to interact with and receive feedback from historians and scholars of the Spanish borderlands immensely beneficial. It is with sadness that we note the passing of Gov. Clements, but through the work of the Clements Center and its support of scholarship on the American West, his generosity will be felt for generations to come.

Daniel Herman
Associate Professor of History
Central Washington University
Clements Center Fellow, 2007-2008

I never met Gov. Bill Clements, but I love him for what he gave scholars of the Southwest. I spent six months on fellowship at the SMU William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, writing Hell on the Range: A Story of Honor, Conscience, and the American West (Yale University Press, 2010), a book on a range war in Arizona and its legacy. What I found at the Clements Center was a community of scholars and friends. I simply could not have written my book with the same insight and depth had I stayed home in Washington State during my sabbatical year. Working at the Center with the other fellows, the staff and the SMU faculty gave me energy, initiative and vitality. My time as a fellow was a rich six months, and the high point in my scholarly career.

Tisa Wenger
Assistant Professor
Yale Divinity School
Clements Center Fellow, 2002-2003

I arrived for my fellowship year at the Clements Center (2002-2003) feeling very much like the odd woman out. Trained as a historian of American religion, I had backed into western history (as well as Native American studies) through a dissertation topic set in New Mexico. Just as historians of the U.S. west often tend to avoid the study of religion, Americanists in religious studies rarely know much about the west, leaving serious blind spots in both fields that are only now beginning to be addressed. (In fact I’ve been working ever since that year, in my publications and teaching as well as through professional societies, to bring these fields into conversation.) I was therefore not well prepared to engage with some of the historiography that was becoming important to my work, and both formal and informal conversations at the center—especially the manuscript workshop—were essential in helping me fill these gaps.

I will always be grateful for the professional and personal support I received from the Clements Center community, especially from my fellow “fellows” Colleen O’Neill and Flannery Burke. And although it took me five more years to finish my book We Have a Religion: The Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), it is hard to imagine how I could have written it without that experience. Just as important, the fellowship also helped me get my first tenure-track job in religious studies at Arizona State University, where my credentials as a historian of religion in the American West made me a particularly attractive candidate.

The Clements Center experience remains important in my current position at Yale Divinity School where, as I connect with Yale’s Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders, I have come to appreciate the deep ties between SMU and Yale in western history. By supporting my work the Clements Center demonstrated and extended its interdisciplinary reach—an experiment that benefitted my work in so many other ways, and one I hope will be repeated many times over!

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