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Patricia Cline Cohen Remembers the Late Drew Cayton

Picture for cayton.3Patricia Cline Cohen (President, 2012) concludes this series with her memories of Drew Cayton:

Before 2011 I had only met Drew in passing at various SHEAR meetings over the years. Our friendship really began when I joined the troika of future, current, past presidents of SHEAR. Our two years of overlap on the executive committee were active years indeed, and I can recall countless three-way conference calls and emails aplenty – my inbox contains 200 messages from Drew from 2011 to 2013. It is both heartening and immensely saddening to look them over now; his judicious voice is so vibrant in all of them. He handled high priority questions as well as mundane organizational matters with grace and tact. He was thorough in his consultations and made excellent decisions.

His presidential year came at the 2012 Baltimore conference. As his understudy, I watched in wonder as he overscheduled his time in the three hours before his presidential address by hosting a meeting to assess social media in SHEAR that was shoehorned into the late afternoon break. Immediately after came the business meeting, leaving a very short downtime before his pre-dinner address. I figured he must be really well prepared, to require no mental rehearsal space.

It was my privilege to introduce him at that address.  Drew sent me his full CV–a very impressive and dense 22 pages. Three things struck me in studying his CV. One was the high caliber of research productivity, honors, residential fellowships, and awards; no surprise there, he fully lived up to his job title, University Distinguished Professor. A second feature of his career, one not so common at all, was the extent to which he engaged in collaborative publications with other historians. And third, his presidential address that night marked a major departure from his career-defining research agenda, a move from the old Northwest, war and imperialism, into the field of early American novels and gender, presaging Love in the Time of Revolution (2013). The range of his interests and expertise was truly remarkable.

After Drew rotated off the executive committee, our contact became less frequent. Yet he did write me a break-a-leg note of encouragement about two weeks before my scheduled presidential address, in which he revealed that every past president he was aware of had started writing their speech about two weeks before the big event. I had started writing mine, but I sure had not finished, and it was so thoughtful of him, and reassuring to me, to let me know that fevered fast finishes were the custom of our tribe.

Losing Drew Cayton, and at such an untimely age, is such a huge loss to all of us.  I feel privileged to have worked with him in SHEAR.

Patricia Cline Cohen, 2012 SHEAR President

Next month’s OAH program includes a session, “Remembering Andrew R. L. ‘Drew’ Cayton,” which will be held on Thursday, April 7, from 1:45-3:15 P.M. If you will be in Providence, please make plans to attend.

Paul Gilje Remembers the Late Drew Cayton

 

Paul Gilje (President, 2008) offers his thoughts on Drew Cayton in the second post of our series:

I first met Drew about forty years ago – when he began his graduate studies at Brown. What struck me about Drew from the very first day was his enthusiasm for history. Over the years, at Brown and after, I watched as Drew took that enthusiasm and applied it to the history he wrote. He developed into one of the premier historians of the early republic. He did so not only because of his enthusiasm. No, there was a suppleness of mind and a willingness to ask new and tough questions, finding answers in interesting places. These qualities appeared in his books, essays and articles. Several of his shorter pieces are classics in terms of research, writing, and most important, thinking (see for example his essay on the Treaty of Greenville). Recognized as the scholar who best understood the Old Northwest, Drew was willing to turn to new vistas. I was blown away when Drew presented his SHEAR presidential address on literary and cultural history and read his elaboration on the subject of that lecture in Love in the Time of Revolution with awe at his versatility and breadth of knowledge.

Drew was a clever, funny, and engaging man. He was an absolute natural in the classroom. I envied his ease of style and ability to relate to those he was teaching. I feel blessed that he came to an NEH Institute I was directing because I had the opportunity to experience his teaching at first hand. Finally, when I think of Drew I most remember the personal moments: when we danced (not with each other) at a disco party at Brown (it was the mid-’70s), or drove together to a mall near Providence to buy Christmas presents for our wives, or decades later in a Washington bar chatting late at night at the AHA, and most recently, spending two days together when he came to Norman in the summer of 2014. I consider myself lucky to have known Drew and that I could call him a friend.

Paul Gilje

 

John L. Brooke Remembers the Late Drew Cayton

This week, The Republic will be publishing a series of posts containing former SHEAR presidents’ remembrances of the late Drew Cayton, the 2011 SHEAR president. John L. Brooke (President, 2007) begins our series with his memories of Drew and his short tenure at Ohio State University:

Drew Cayton set up shop late last summer, in the office next to mine in Dulles Hall. His time in our department was a brief but memorable flash.

Early last June, in response to a routine “hi, what are your plans” email, Drew let me know that he was not doing well. By the mid-summer, when I saw him and Mary at the new place in the Circles south of campus, it was clear that things were extremely serious. But suddenly, in early August, we got a call: Drew and Mary were on their way over for a visit on our back porch. What we expected would be a short and solemn fifteen minutes turned into a hilarious hour and half. Drew was on the mend, and the four of us had a wonderful time, chatting, laughing, and swilling lemonade on a hot Columbus afternoon.

Two weeks later he and Mary arrived and held court at the department picnic, and then, as the semester got under way, Drew started unpacking his books in 248 Dulles, slowly and deliberately, carefully thinking through the architecture of his intellectual life. We began to kibitz and conspire on field and department in a quiet way; we were starting to build the continuous, staccato pattern of departmental colleagues. Sometime in October I raced over, late, to the Executive Board meeting of the Ohio Academic History, in the cavernous concrete bunker rooms of the Ohio Historical Center. Drew was in charge, presiding quietly, in a role that we will long remember. Drew gave his time, tirelessly, to a host of institutional commitments, and the meeting that afternoon bore his signature: deliberate, cordial, encouraging, cutting through road blocks with a wry smile, a gentle wave, and a cogent plan.Picture for brooke.10

By then the graduate students were flocking to his door, tentatively, shyly, at first. Then I walk by to find that he is again holding court. First it was a pair regularly meeting to discuss Midwestern historiography, then others were stopping by. Drew was not officially on the teaching roster, but by last September he was getting the urge to teach, and launched a seven-week intensive course on the new Loyalist literature, which filled instantly. He was also in regular attendance at the Ohio Seminar, commenting on great sessions with Lindsay Regale and Michael McDonnell. We had a great historian and a fine colleague among us.

Then, suddenly in late November, his office fell quiet, and all too soon he was gone. Drew Cayton was a pillar in the field of Early American History. We were honored that he would join us, and blessed by a few short months of his presence. We miss him, and we miss the opportunity for what might have been for him for the department, for the profession.

Dulles 248, full of Drew’s scholarship, sits quiet, for the moment. But the other day Mary stopped by to tell me that she wants to move in, to work in Drew’s space. She has already had her own impact on the life of the department, and we have done our own share of kibitzing and conspiring. And so the story goes on, tinged with a great loss.

John L. Brooke
Dulles Hall
History, Ohio State University