Two Women Scholars That Made An Impact

Fortunately for me, I have had some outstanding professors during my academic journey. I can think of two specific women professors who had a great impact on me as a historian while pursuing my undergraduate degree in history at John Carroll University. Ironically, neither taught American Civil War courses. However, each helped to shape me as a Civil War scholar. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge them in recognition of Women’s History Month. 

Dr. Maria Marsilli

A native of Chile, Dr. Marsilli teaches courses in Latin American history. I was fortunate enough to take three or four of her courses during my four years at JCU. Dr. Marsilli covered topics ranging from the Colonial Era to the Mexican Revolution to Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution. She was the quintessential scholar. She taught me what history is really about. It’s not so much about the names of noteworthy figures and dates, but rather the everyday individuals who shaped events, most nameless or forgotten. She could take complicated topics and make sense of them. Some of my best memories at JCU are during Dr. Marsilli’s classes.

The Battle of Puebla, Mexico, May 5, 1862. (Library of Congress)

Dr. Anne Kugler

I fondly recall my final history course during my senior year with Dr. Kugler. Each student had to choose a revolution and complete a thesis paper on the subject. This was my first exposure to writing a graduate-level paper. I choose the most obscure topic I could find: the 1821 Greek War of Independence. I knew absolutely nothing about the revolution. I was mainly drawn to it because of its colorful leader: the one-armed soldier Alexander Ypsilantis. (Maybe because he reminded me of the dashing Phil Kearny?)

I attribute Dr. Kugler’s class and her guidance as what best prepared me for pursuing a graduate degree in history at Cleveland State University. When I enrolled at CSU in 2012, I felt like I hit the ground running. She taught me how to unearth reliable primary and secondary sources, form an argument, and structure a research paper. I recall her stressing to the class that an interest in history wasn’t going to propel anybody through graduate school. It took determination and a real passion for it. I’m sure this turned off some of my classmates, but I felt like she was speaking directly to me. With this in mind, I chose to pursue a graduate degree when I felt the time was right.

Ypsilanti’s tomb in Greece.

Without these two woman scholars, I certainly would not be where I am today. While I diverted from the typical academic track, not a day goes by that I don’t utilize the skills I learned while enrolled in courses taught by both of these professors. I would like to thank both Dr. Maria N. Marsilli and Dr. Anne Kugler for all they have done to help me mature as a scholar. I hope that I’m making them proud. I owe it to them.

About Frank Jastrzembski

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Frank Jastrzembski studied history at John Carroll University (B.A.) and Cleveland State University (M.A.). He's written dozens of articles and two books on Victorian officers. Visit www.frankjastrzembski.com to view a complete list of his publications. When he is not writing, he travels with his wife, explores old cemeteries, plays wargames, and hunts for vintage military and political memorabilia.
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