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GORDON BAKKEN AWARD OF MERIT
The Gordon Bakken Award of Merit is given for outstanding service to the field of western history and to the Western History Association. To nominate a WHA member, send a letter to the Award of Merit Committee members explaining why the individual deserves to be recognized.
-2024 Awards Cycle opens January 15, 2024
-2024 Award Nomination Deadline: June 15, 2024
The WHA office sends notifications to selected award recipients at the end of August.
Charles E. Rankin
David G. Gutiérrez
Jo Tice Bloom
Caroline F. Schimmel
Brian Q. Cannon
Mary E. Mendoza
Bárbara O. Reyes
Michael "Cowboy Mike" Searles
Cathleen D. Cahill
Anne F. Hyde
Jeremy M. Johnston
GORDON M. BAKKEN
Gordon M. Bakken(1942-2014), a Wisconsin native, earned his bachelor’s degree in English, his master’s and doctorate in history, and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin. He joined the faculty at the California State-Fullerton in 1969, remaining there for his entire career. Described as an extraordinarily generous teacher, scholar, and person, during his life, Bakken was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Coalition for Western Women’s History Lifetime Achievement Award and the WHA Award of Merit, which now bears his name.
The author or editor of 24 books, Bakken focused his research primarily on legal history in the US West with a special interest on the importance of women in the West, once remarking, “My interest in women’s history flowed from the 1960s interest in the history of unrepresented groups … I started looking into the experiences of women in the American West. I quickly found that women had far more to teach me than any other group of people.” Among scholars, he may be best remembered for his works such as,Women Who Kill Men: California Courts, Gender, and the PressandInvitation to an Execution: A History of the Death Penalty in the United States. Among his former students, Bakken may be best remembered for his caring approach as well as his legendarily long lists of required reading—an average of 20 books. A generous donor and source of constant support, he served the WHA for three decades. He presented research, chaired countless sessions, and served on multiple committees, including the Membership and Financial Advisory committees as well as two Local Arrangement Committees. Gordon M. Bakken died on December 4, 2014 at the age of 71.
"History can teach society to make more rational decisions about actions to be taken or policies to be pursued. History helps us to find patterns and repetitions, but also to protect cultural values against the materialism of an acquisitive society. History displays patterns of beliefs, ideals, loyalties and aspirations capable of transforming a random aggregation of human beings into a coherent society. History is part of objective reality and the human mind has an innate desire to explore and understand that reality. History is a part of cultural heritage and teaches wisdom and fosters virtue to make us better human beings. For each of us, history helps us to understand change and determine self-identity. In studying history, we attempt to realize our human potential, to break out of the constricting circle of the present. We affirm our humanity as well as our nationality. We ask age-old questions about our duty to country, others and self." --Gordon Bakken (Courtesy of California State University FullertonMaking History, Inside online publication October 2009).