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Professor Andrew Morris wins NEH fellowship

January 18, 2017

Andrew Morris, associate professor of history, has been awarded a prestigious fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Among the most competitive academic awards in the country, the fellowships support advanced research in the humanities, allowing recipients to produce articles, books, digital materials or other scholarly resources.

Morris will use his grant to continue work on a book about Hurricane Camille and the transformation of American disaster relief policy.

On Aug. 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille slammed into the Mississippi coast, leaving a path of death and destruction. The Category 5 storm, one of the strongest ever to make landfall in the U.S., killed more than 140 in the Gulf Coast region and leveled thousands of homes and buildings.

Disaster assistance was slow to arrive and criticism over the response helped lead to the 1970 Disaster Relief Act, which made permanent the expansion of a number of federal disaster assistance programs that had been pioneered in limited form in the late 1960s.

The federal law also widened the scope of federal assistance to individual disaster victims, moving beyond the long-standing federal role in reconstruction of public facilities, Morris said.

He has been working on research related to the history of disaster relief since 2009. He eventually decided to focus the book on Hurricane Camille because of its historic significance. The fellowship will allow him to take off spring term of 2018 to work on the manuscript. He plans to have the book ready by 2019 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the devastating storm.

"I was delighted to get the news of the fellowship," said Morris, who joined Union in 2003. "Receiving one is not only great financial and moral support, but it's an affirmation of the significance of the project. It complements the generous support for the project that I've received from the College's Humanities Faculty Research Fund as well as from the Department of History.

"My students have been essential to the project, as well. My research has benefited from the help of College-funded student summer researchers, and my seminar on "Disasters in American History" has given me a forum to try out some of my ideas on my students and to learn from their own research. Being awarded an NEH Fellowship is a really nice capstone for the project. I'm also happy to help show that the research we do at Union is competitive with that done at much larger, research-oriented universities."

Morris's project is among 290 humanities-based research projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to receive a combined $16.3 million in the latest round of funding from the NEH.

"The humanities help us study our past, understand our present and prepare for our future," said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. "The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to support projects that will benefit all Americans and remind us of our shared human experience."
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