Professor selected as 2006 Piper

James S. Olson, who has written more books and won more awards than any faculty member in Sam Houston State University history, has been selected as a Piper Professor of 2006.Olson, distinguished professor of history, is one of 15 college and university professors from throughout Texas to be so designated. Olson’s selection means that Sam Houston State University has had a Piper Professor for the past three years.”I am indeed honored to be named a Piper Professor, mostly because of the respect I have for other SHSU faculty members who have received the award,” said Olson. “I am honored to be in their company. Also, I think the award sheds light on the quality of Sam Houston State University. “Caroline Crimm was named a Piper Professor in 2004 and Vic Sower in 2005. Few colleges or universities in Texas have ever received the award three years in a row. That says something about Sam Houston State University.” The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation of San Antonio makes 15 awards of $5,000 annually “for superior teaching at the college level.” Their program was started in 1958 with funding provided by Randall Gordon Piper and Minnie Stevens Piper, both of whom died in 1955.Last spring Olson became the first Sam Houston State University faculty member to receive all three of the university’s faculty excellence awards. He won the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1977, Excellence in Research in 1988 and Excellence in Service in 2005.A year earlier the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored Olson as the outstanding university professor in Texas for 2004.Olson has written more than 40 books on U. S. and world history, two of which have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.His best known book is “John Wayne American,” which was nominated for the 1955 Pulitzer Prize in biography. “Bathsheba’s Breast: Women, Cancer, and History,” was nominated for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in history.It also won the 2003 History of Science Prize from the Association of American Publishers and was named by the “Los Angeles Times” as one of the best non-fiction books in America in 2002.His most influential book historically, he believes, is “A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory.” It won the Deolece Parmelee Award for Outstanding Research.Olson earned bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and the master’s and doctorate from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has taught at Sam Houston State since 1972. Many of his accomplishments have been during his battle over the past 25 years with cancer, which caused the amputation of his left hand and forearm in 1988. A malignant tumor called an oligodendroglioma also resulted in brain surgery in 2000.Through it all he has remained upbeat, and incredibly productive. He is completing a book on the MD Anderson Cancer Center, which will be a combined history of the institution and a history of the modern development of cancer medicine. “I am also in the beginning stages of a biography of former President Richard M. Nixon,” he said.He also gives constant praise to colleagues and students, and the university for which he has worked and which has benefited so greatly from his work.”I consider it one of the great blessings in my life to have been able to spend my career here,” he said.Sam Houston State University’s previous Piper Professors include Hazel Floyd, education (1961); George Killinger, sociology (1968); Mary Frances Park, education (1981); Fisher Tull, music (1984); Ralph Pease, English (1987); Vic Lukaszewski, political science (1992); Rolando V. del Carmen, criminal justice (1998); Caroline Crimm, history (2004) and Vic Sower, management (2005).

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