In Memoriam: Noel J. Stowe

Beth Luey, January 2009

Public Historian and AHA Life Member

Noel StoweNoel J. Stowe, professor of history at Arizona State University, died on December 13, 2008, at the age of sixty-six. He was an active life member of both the American Historical Association and of the Organization of American Historians. In 1992–94 he participated in the work of the AHA as a member of the Committee on Redefining Scholarly Work. In 2005, he participated in the AHA’s discussions on the future of the history master’s degree. He served as a member of the AHA’s Task Force on Public History from 2001 to 2005.

Stowe began teaching at Arizona State University in 1967, after receiving his BA and PhD from the University of Southern California and teaching briefly at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. In 1978, he became the history department’s director of graduate study. In his eight years in that position he expanded the master’s and doctoral degree programs and founded the public history program, which, under his direction, achieved national and international recognition. He directed more than 50 graduate theses and dissertations. His students have gone on to direct public history programs at other universities, and to work in museums, historical societies, and archives across the country.

Stowe worked tirelessly on the national stage to broaden the opportunities for historians to take their scholarship beyond the walls of the university. He was a founding member of the National Council on Public History and had represented NCPH as a delegate to the American Council of Learned Societies since 2005. Stowe became active in the Oral History Association in the 1980s. He was a member of the executive board of the Southwest Oral History Association from 1989 to 1994 and its president in 1992–93. He worked on the Program Committee for the American Association for State and Local History from 2002 to 2007.

Stowe’s interest in Arizona history led to contributions far beyond the ASU campus. He was a member of both the state and local boards of the Arizona Historical Society and helped establish Friends of Arizona Archives. He was a member of the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission. In August 2008, he and a team of researchers received a National Endowment for the Humanities planning grant to design and implement Becoming Arizona, an online encyclopedia of Arizona history, culture, politics, economics, and other topics as a Centennial project. He worked closely with the Arizona Humanities Council, which presented him with the Friend of the Humanities Award in 2004. In June 2008 he received the Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award.

In 1987, Stowe became assistant dean of the Graduate College at ASU, and in 1991 he became associate dean. He promoted ASU’s participation in national projects funded by the Pew Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. He was dedicated to improving the graduate experience of students throughout the university and helped to develop the Preparing Future Faculty program at ASU (about which he wrote for Perspectives in November 2004). He also took a keen interest in promoting the admission and success of minority students. After a year as interim dean, he returned to the history department, which he chaired from 1998 to 2006.Stowe was also a productive scholar, with three books and more than a dozen articles published. He directed grant-funded projects of more than $1 million.

Stowe is survived by his wife, Gwen. Their son, James, died in 2007. Donations may be made in his memory to the ASU Foundation for the Noel J. and Gwen J. Stowe Public History Endowment, c/o Department of History, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4302. The endowment will help support scholarly activities in public history in the Department of History, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe campus. A memorial ceremony to celebrate Noel’s life will be held in late January.

—Beth Luey
and faculty members in the Department of History at
Arizona State University