History Department
History Department

H.W. Brands recipient of "Outstanding Alumnus" award

Thu, February 2, 2012
H.W. Brands recipient of
H. W. Brands. Photo by Marsha Miller.

H.W. Brands, the Dickson, Allen, Anderson Centennial Professor of History, has been honored by the Texas Exes with the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award.  The award, the highest conferred by the Texas Exes, was created in 1958, and is awarded annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves through exceptional professional achievements and service to the university.

Dr. Brands has a varied background.  He received his B.A. from Stanford in 1975, after which he worked as a traveling salesman for his family’s cutlery company.  Returning to academia, Brands was pulled in very different directions, earning an M.A. from Reed College in Liberal Studies in 1978, and an M.S. in Mathematics from Portland State University in 1981.  Even while a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas in History, Dr. Brands continued to teach math at Austin Community College.  

Luckily for his students, colleagues, and readers, history won out in the end.  Dr. Brands is one of the most prolific authors the History Department has ever seen.  He has written 26 books, edited or co-authored seven more, and has written many scholarly articles, book chapters, op-ed pieces, and magazine articles.  The breadth of his work is equally impressive – his books range in time period from the dawn of the nation to the Cold War.  

His contributions to historical scholarship have not gone unrecognized. Among many other awards, in 2010 he received the Texas Writer Award from the Texas Book Festival.  He is also an elected member of the Society of American Historians, Institute of Texas Letters, and the Philosophical Society of Texas.  Dr. Brands’ work has clearly had an impact on many people, including the President of the United States.  Barack Obama invited Dr. Brands to dinner at the White House in June of 2009 as part of a select group of distinguished historians, to provide perspective and advice on the challenges faced by the nation’s previous presidents.  He has since been invited twice more to the White House, in May 2010 and July 2011.

Despite Dr. Brands’ very full schedule, he is never too busy to talk to students, often at length, about their own work and research interests.  Indeed, rather than using professional success to avoid teaching responsibilities, Dr. Brands genuinely enjoys teaching and mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students, often going above and beyond in help and advice what is normally expected of a professor.  Beyond his teaching and writing, Dr. Brands has been an invaluable ambassador for the History Department and the University of Texas.  He has represented the History Department in speaking to alumni, donors, and members of the community.  

It is rare to find a scholar who is at once so prolific and so devoted to teaching.  Perhaps both impulses, however, come from the same place – a deep satisfaction at been able to communicate complex and yet engrossing stories about the past.  Dr. Brands has the ability to use the lives of individuals to paint a vivid tableau which illustrates the context in which his subjects lived, and to use stories that capture the imagination to highlight the vast changes our nation has undergone.  He brings the same enthusiasm to the table whether speaking to undergraduates taking their first history class, to distinguished alumni, or to the President of the United States.  This award is richly deserved, not only for Dr. Brands’ professional accomplishments, but for his tireless and unstinting service to the History Department and the University.



Graduate School Professional Awards for 2012:

Professor Brands' home page:

Professor Brands' faculty home page:

H. W. Brands on the Rise of American Capitalism, on Not Even Past:

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