Kaster Wins 2018 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching

A member of the history faculty since 1986, Kaster was recognized with the award at the 2018 commencement ceremony.
Posted on June 7th, 2018 by

History professor Greg Kaster won the 2018 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching.

Gustavus Adolphus College history professor Greg Kaster was named the winner of the 2018 Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching at the College’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 2. The honor was presented by retiring English professor Florence Amamoto, the 1998 winner of the award.

Students and alumni who nominated the professor referred to him as “passionate” and “enthusiastic,” going so far as to describe Kaster energetically bouncing on the balls of his feet and rolling up a sleeve and pointing to recognize students who made an especially cogent observation during class discussion. From first-term seminar students to those who went on to graduate studies in history or other fields, his pupils appreciate his advising and ability to make them grow their writing, critical thinking, and research skills. “[Kaster] deeply invests in his students and sees their unlimited potential for growth,” wrote one alumna who now works for a non-governmental organization.

Dr. Greg Kaster

“I hope graduates will remember that understanding who, what, when, where, and why we are, whether at the individual or social level, demands historical thinking and understanding; that everything—even death and taxes—has a history; and that all of us are not only in history but also makers of it, which means we have the potential, always constrained in some ways, to change it,” Kaster said. “I hope they have learned as well the imperative and exhilaration of what I like to call learning for life.” The professor acknowledged that equally likely, however, was that former students would recall what have become known at Gustavus as “Kaster’s Seven Cs of History” — change, continuity, chronology, causation, context, contingency, counterfactual.

A passionate advocate for the power of the liberal arts and member of the Gustavus Department of History since 1986, he encourages students to learn for the sake of learning. “For all the talk about how studying the humanities prepares one well for success in the workplace—which, by the way, is certainly true as evidenced by the fulfilling lives and careers of countless Gustavus humanities graduates over the years—the most important reason for studying them is their capacity to humanize us. That, and enriching both one’s interior life and engagement with life itself,” the professor explained.

Kaster teaches courses in American history with a particular emphasis on the Civil War, slavery and abolitionism, masculinity, and dissent. A native of the Chicago area, he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northern Illinois University and earned his doctorate from Boston University.

“I am deeply honored, touched, and grateful to have won this year’s Carlson Award. To win it as a professor at a college and in a department full of outstanding teachers is also humbling to say the least,” Kaster said. “I love being a professor of history and the liberal arts at Gustavus, and publicly conveying as it does the confidence and respect of students and colleagues alike, no award will ever mean more to me.”

The Edgar M. Carlson Award was established by the Gustavus Board of Trustees in 1971 to honor former President Edgar Carlson for his years of distinguished leadership and in recognition of his commitment to academic excellence. Gustavus faculty, staff, administrators, and students nominate professors for this award, and each year at commencement a faculty member, selected by the Provost based on the recommendations of previous award recipients, is honored for their exceptional skill and effectiveness as an instructor.

Recent Carlson Award Recipients

2017: Pamela Kittelson, Biology
2016: Eric Carlson, History
2015: David Obermiller, History
2014: Matt Panciera, Classics
2013: Rebecca Fremo, English
2012: Alisa Rosenthal, Political Science
2011: Barbara Zust, Nursing
2010: Leila Brammer, Communication Studies
2009: Rick Orpen, Music
2008: Richard Leitch, Political Science
2007: Claude Brew, English
2006: Paul Saulnier, Physics
2005: Rob Gardner, Theatre and Dance
2004: Lisa Heldke, Philosophy
2003: Cindy Johnson, Biology
2002: Max Hailperin, Mathematics and Computer Science
2001: Gretchen Hofmeister, Chemistry
2000: Eric Eliason, English

A full list of past Carlson Award winners dating back to 1971 is available online.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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