Dr. Kenneth Wheeler, professor of history at Reinhardt University, has published his first book, Cultivating Regionalism: Higher Education and the Making Of The American Midwest, with Northern Illinois University Press. The book is part of a collaborative book series, Early American Places, that includes books focusing on smaller geographical scales of historical developments in the specific places where they occurred and/or were contested.
Wheeler’s book delves into how the Midwest region developed small colleges differently than the New England and Southern regions, including incorporating manual labor programs, which nurtured a Midwestern zeal for connecting mind and body, and introducing the concept of coeducation of men and women—creating an explosion of gender norms throughout higher education. The book shows how college founders built robust institutions of higher learning in this socially and ethnically diverse milieu during the antebellum decades, which, in turn, helped cultivate their regional identity. Through higher education, the values of people living north and west of the Ohio River formed the basis of a new Midwestern culture.
In a review of the book, Andrew Cayton of Miami University said, “more than an excellent social history of institutions of higher education in the nineteenth-century Midwest, this book is a thoughtful addition to a growing number of studies investigating the question of regional identity north and west of the Ohio River.”
And Thomas Hamm of Earlham College said that “the value of this book is that it makes new and interesting arguments about three issues in American history: American pre-eminence in the natural sciences; the origins of Progressivism; and how the culture of the Old Northwest differed from that of the Northeast and the South.”
Wheeler has been at Reinhardt since 1999, and has been honored with the United Methodist Exemplary Teacher Award in 2009; the Elizabeth Moss Bailey Faculty Mentor Award in 2008; the Captain A. M. Reinhardt Award in 2004; and the Vulcan Award for Educational Excellence in 2004.
In the community, Wheeler serves on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Association of Historians and the Cherokee County Historical Society, and the Advisory Board for the Funk Heritage Center.
Wheeler is currently doing research on Georgia’s Etowah Valley, and has presented and published scholarship on Joseph E. Brown, the iron industry, and Augustus M. Reinhardt. He is planning an upcoming symposium open to the public, to be held at Reinhardt March 30-31, sponsored by the Georgia Humanities Council, called “Etowah Valley Iron-Making and the Coming of the Civil War.”
His book may be purchased at the Reinhardt University bookstore, or at Amazon.com.