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Sullivant Medal winner helps others learn history’s lessons

Geoffrey Parker is one of 20 recipients of the award in the past century

N. Geoffrey Parker, Distinguished University Professor and Andreas Dorpalen Professor of European History, is the 2021 recipient of The Ohio State University Joseph Sullivant Medal.

The Sullivant Medal is awarded once every five years as a memorial to Joseph Sullivant who, as a member of the first Board of Trustees, contributed to setting a vision for the character and direction of the university.

“The Sullivant Medal has been awarded approximately every five years, since 1924, to a member of the university whose achievements have been extraordinary and distinctive. Dr. Parker certainly meets those criteria,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron. “On behalf of the university, I offer Dr. Parker our sincere appreciation and congratulations on his outstanding work.

Parker studied history at Christ’s College Cambridge and began his teaching and research in England, Scotland and Canada. He moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1986 and to Yale University in 1993, before joining the faculty of Ohio State’s History Department in 1997.

“Ohio State has ways of reaching out and embracing you and I feel the Sullivant Medal is a wonderful tribute to what I’ve tried to do here, so I feel very flattered,” Parker said.

Parker said he was honored to join the company of two previous winners who had emphasized teaching and mentoring: historians Robert Bremner and Arthur Schlesinger Sr.

“My proudest achievement is having supervised 35 doctoral theses to completion and Brenner and Schlesinger did the same,” he said. “To me, creating knowledge through others is as important as doing it yourself. The really great historians are the ones who foster scholarship, research and achievements by their students. It’s not just about you.”

Parker teaches courses on the Reformation, European history and military history at both undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2006, he won an Ohio State Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Scott Levi, professor and chair of history, nominated Parker for the Sullivant Medal and noted the breadth of his knowledge and impact.

“He has taught at Ohio State for the past 23 years and in the past seven years he has published five major books. Geoffrey Parker is a world-renowned historian acclaimed for his scholarship on global history, military history and European history,” Levi wrote. “He has authored, co-authored and edited 40 books; published over 100 articles and book chapters; produced over 200 book reviews and review articles; and delivered hundreds of lectures in several languages on four continents.”

Parker said Joseph Sullivant helped expand the mission of Ohio State beyond an agricultural and engineering-focused university to one that “celebrated the production of valuable literary, artistic, historical, philosophical or other work by someone who studied or taught at The Ohio State University.”

“That is a noble vision,” Parker said, “and I’m very proud that the board of trustees thought that I’ve lived up to that.”

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