John Thelin, Ph.D.
University Research Professor,
History of Higher Education & Public Policy
Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation
136A Taylor Education Building
John Thelin was named a University Research Professor in 2000. His teaching and research interests focus on the history of higher education and public policy. John likes to bring historical writing and research to contemporary discussions about significant, enduring higher education issues. His latest book is A History of American Higher Education, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press – with a new second edition in November 2011. Its distinctive approach is to emphasize the history of colleges and universities — especially campus life — as part of American popular culture. In Spring 2004 John was selected by the UK Alumni Society to receive one of its “Great Teacher” Awards. He received the University Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2006. In April 2007 the American Educational Research Association conferred on him the Exemplary Research Award for Division J: Postsecondary and Higher Education research. In November 2011 John received the “Outstanding Research Achievement Award” from the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).
John Thelin has received two major research grants from the Spencer Foundation: a history of intercollegiate athletics scandals that led to his book, Games Colleges Play, published by Johns Hopkins University Press; and, in 1999-2000, a historical study of how research universities developed in the South since 1890. In 1999-2000 John served as President of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. He is author of six books and also writes articles, book reviews and reviews manuscripts for such journals as The Review of Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, History of Education Quarterly, Academe, and Change. His chapters on higher education topics have been published in The Encyclopedia of American Social History, The Encyclopedia of Educational Research, and The Encyclopedia of Higher Education. In addition to writing for scholarly journals, he has had essays published in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in 2000 was guest columnist on higher education for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has been a consultant to the National Science Foundation, to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and since 2006 has been a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s higher education working group in Washington, D.C. In 2009 he co-authored with Richard Trollinger, Vice President of Centre College and a Ph.D. alumnus of the EPE program, a study for the Aspen Institute, Time is of the Essence, dealing with reconsideration of perpetual endowment policies for philanthropic foundations. . His project with A.S. T. Blackburn on the study of “Town and Gown Heritage of Kentucky’s Colleges and Universities” received a research grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council in 2004 and received a 2006 award from the Kentucky Historical Society. This has led to his creating a new undergraduate course, “Town and Gown,” dealing with colleges and communities. This has been approved for university-wide status as part of the General Education curriculum. His most recent research project is a book contract to write on rising college costs and the economics of higher education.
A 1969 alumnus of Brown University, John concentrated in European History and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He earned an M.A. in American History and a Ph.D. in the History of Education and was a Regents Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to joining the UK faculty he was Professor of Higher Education & Philanthropy at Indiana University. At The College of William & Mary in Virginia from 1981 to 1993 John was Chancellor Professor, Director of the Higher Education Doctoral Program, and received the Phi Beta Kappa Award for Faculty Scholarship. He also served as President of the University Faculty Assembly in 1990-91, was Faculty Liaison to the Board of Visitors, and was President of the Williamsburg Area United Way. From 1979 to 1981 he was Research Director for the Association of Independent California Colleges & Universities.
Professor Thelin enjoys being part of the campus community. During the 2001-2002 academic year he was a member of two UK Presidential Task Forces. He has been an elected member of the University Senate and also served as a member of the Senate Council and the Graduate Council. He received the College of Education’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service (2001) and the award for Excellence in Research. (2000).