Andrew J. Dunar, Ph.D.

Andrew Dunar

Title: Professor Emeritus of History
Company: University of Alabama in Huntsville
Location: Huntsville, Alabama, United States

Andrew J. Dunar, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership in history and higher education.

Dr. Dunar is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, having first held the position of full professor of history in 1984. Focusing his research on 20th and 21st century American history and foreign policy, he formerly served Union College as a visiting assistant professor of history from 1983 to 1984 and Manchester University as an assistant professor of history in 1983.

To prepare for his career, Dr. Dunar pursued an education at Northwestern University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1968. He subsequently attended the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1974, graduating with a Master of Arts. Soon thereafter, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1981.

A prolific author, Dr. Dunar has penned several works alongside other authors, including “Power to Explore: A History of Marshall Space Flight Center” and “Building Hoover Dam: An Oral History of the Great Depression.” In addition, he has authored “America in the Teens” and “America in the 50s” through Syracuse University Press, as well as served as an editor of Oral History Review with the Oral History Association since 1999.

In recognition of his exceptional contributions to history, Dr. Dunar was honored with the History Book Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 2001. He remains a member of the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. Looking toward the future, Dr. Dunar hopes to complete the two books he is working on regarding Lyndon B. Johnson and The Farm.

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  1. While your short survey of Dr. Dunar’s career does mention “dedication, achievements, and leadership in history and higher education,” it does skimp a bit on his greatest achievement–teaching. I cannot count the hours I spent in classes with him as I made my way through a BA and MA in history at UAH, but the image I will forever hold is of him coming into the seminar room for evening classes, usually in the range of 6:00 pm-9:00 pm, wearing a blazer and tie no matter how late or hot it was in Alabama, even though the intimate department and liberal arts demeanor meant many of his colleagues were bopping about in rolled up sleeves and jeans, sometimes even shorts. It might seem odd first to address his fashion choices, but they actually speak to his consummate professionalism and constant awareness of being a role model responsible for training the next generation of historians or, conversely, offering the only representation nursing or business students would have of those in history before they check the liberal arts box in the program of study and gratefully scurry back to their own buildings and chosen fields. Yet Andy Dunar is no stuffed shirt, just the opposite, really, as he welcomes lively discussion and even direct challenges–from well-prepared students, of course, as his expectations for us are just as high as his own. He doesn’t just teach history, either; he is a true educator, that rarity who helps with the lessons needing to be learned in all life, not just a particular discipline or the bullet points in a curriculum. When he looks at his students, he not only sees potential, he feels responsibility for helping to shape that raw material into its finest form.

    Ultimately, I did not take my two diplomas earned summa cum laude in no small part because of him and go set the academic world on fire; no, I decided to honor what Dr. Andy Dunar gave me in a much more fitting way, by becoming a teacher myself. History is a lonely little subject in most schools these days, getting short shrift in just about every way possible. However, wiggly third graders in my small group beg me to tell them stories, and I frequently apply what I learned about oral history techniques to learners with challenges who do better learning aurally–and find other classmates grow still and quiet to listen raptly right along with my group. My 5th grade small group and the class as a whole also recently got to consider the matter of storytelling. History has gone MIA, but “the non-fiction narrative” gets lots of Common Core love, and one question in our analysis of such a narrative about double-Dutch rope-jumping in the reading textbook asked why it was a good idea to use a quote of one particular girl’s own words in answering a question.

    I didn’t have a blazer or tie to straighten, but Andy Dunar entered that classroom when I started discussing those issues with my students–which I’ll now share here for much the same purpose, if you’ll indulge me. I have the poignant testimony permanently branded in my memory from images of and interviews about my family members’ experiences when my father was wounded in Vietnam, promptly had a camera shoved in his face, and made the evening news 3 days before contact could be established and casualty notifications made. That was 3 days of agony for my mother and grandmother, helplessly waiting and really expecting to get the news that Daddy wasn’t just hurt and unconscious in that trench the men then lying injured had taken from the enemy, but rather among the dead, leaving Mama a widow raising a young child without a father. She wasn’t actually alone, thankfully, as my grandfather, also a soldier, had convinced her to come back and live with them on Post where he was stationed while Daddy was overseas. They had just changed death notification procedures, because of the very high-casualty battle that led to reinforcements like my father having to hotfoot it to Vietnam and straight into fighting that was heating up. Pop (as we imitated Mama in calling HER father) had actually contacted the chaplain to make sure he would get the news first and could then go with them to break it to my mother. I was only able to collect that testimony from the various family members who lived through it because of the skills Dr. Dunar taught me and how he (and his wife) challenged me in a presentation I gave at an event about that experience. Life magazine had printed a big spread with the stills of that battle, first shown on the evening news to unwitting loved ones, and then its aftermath, which gave us some of the most iconic images of the war. Originally, though, I was thinking like a traditional military historian, concerned mainly with getting Daddy to do an interview about what he had experienced on the battlefield at Bong Son and sharing that, since he was the one in the photos who lived through those events. Yet Dr. Dunar (and his wife) challenged me on that notion in the question-and-answer period, making a point that part of what oral history does is finally give voice to those the standard accounts and textbooks left voiceless for too long, a list that certainly includes women, even though my presentation had not–which they were absolutely right to point out. Daddy has lived the aftermath every day since on knees that never really healed, but over those first three days, he was in and out of consciousness, in and out of surgery, and not really all that aware of what was happening. No, the people who really had something to say were the worried women who had been forced to make it through those 3 days with the images all too present in their minds and the soldier used to action who this time couldn’t really do anything but wait right along with the women to see if his son-in-law was alive or dead So, I went back and got more detail about the different ways family members experienced those first 3 days of uncertainty and trauma, and when I needed an example to teach a concept to my students, it was there waiting for a chance to resurface. I was able to tell the story of my father’s wounds, TV appearance, and family pain with the different perspectives and voices of those involved distinctly preserved. After sharing that story, every student in my class understood both how powerful a voice speaking its own truth is and that truth is rarely a fixed, capital-T entity when it comes to human experience–lessons I as an educator am glad I can pass along to another generation thanks to what Andy Dunar taught me!

    The description refers to Dr. Dunar’s prolific writings, but, while that body of scholarship and his influence as a teacher are certainly the greatest elements of his legacy, his own service in Vietnam speaks volumes about his character and what makes him the influential leader that he is. While many of his colleagues were starting academic careers because years of study for doctorates and life in the ivory tower was a great way to duck the draft, Andy Dunar put on a Navy uniform and committed himself to the ROTC–at UCLA, no less! It wasn’t Berkeley, but it was pretty darn close (376 miles, more or less). His decision to join the ROTC wasn’t just a “dodge” to get out of real service, either. He took the leadership commitment required of reserved officers quite seriously, which is also the very reason that he decided to join a student protest against the use of Napalm in Vietnam. To me, that is the epitome of moral character, in which he chartered a path all his own that allowed him to give loyal service to his country and yet also fight to hold that nation to a higher standard of behavior in the way it conducted its fight. Having been raised by a father who is careful not to step on God’s toes by using his tongue to condemn anyone to Hell EXCEPT Lyndon Baines Johnson, for whom he has assured me there will be a special place reserved as payback for sending troops into war to “fight” with one hand tied behind their backs and the trigger fingers of their rifles taped shut, I tend to be more comfortable with asymmetric warfare than Dr. Dunar. However, I truly mean it when I say “Andy Dunar, he’s my hero!!!!” a phrase I can work into more conversations than you could ever imagine!

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