Howard Bodenhorn had the voice of his students behind him in receiving a coveted professional award — and the rest is history.
An economic historian, Bodenhorn is the 2018 recipient of the Jonathan Hughes Prize for Excellence in Teaching Economic History. It is presented in alternating years to graduate and undergraduate educators by the Economic History Association. Bodenhorn’s recognition is for excellence in teaching Clemson University undergraduates in his Creative Inquiry and History of Economics classes.
“When they introduced me to receive the award, letters were read from my students who endorsed me as the recipient,” said Bodenhorn, whose expertise lies in financial history and the economics of crime, race and racial identity. “What they said about me was genuinely humbling. When I got to the podium to accept the award, I was left speechless.”
Students’ letters supporting Bodenhorn as the award recipient cited his passion for teaching economic history, his ability to transfer that passion to his students, and the personal time he spent after class with his proteges.
Megan Waite ’15, a senior financial analyst at TJX Companies, wrote that Bodenhorn was instrumental in her decision to change majors from mathematical sciences to economics.
“He taught (my) Development of the American Economy course and I was hooked. What was evident is the passion he had for the subject and teaching it. He pushed and challenged me to hold myself accountable for absorbing information, as he did with other students. Ultimately, he inspired me to pursue my interest in economics. I am confident he has enlightened countless others since my class.”
Bodenhorn, who has taught in the College of Business for 11 years, said most of his research work pertains to the Jacksonian era (1820-1860). “It’s a unique era in our history that saw the rise in populism and huge political and economic change,” he said.
Bodenhorn has taught six Creative Inquiry classes with three of them focusing on the economic history of the state’s textile industry and three on crime in South Carolina. One of the textile industry classes probed the effect Prohibition had on the textile industry. Michael Wagnon ’17, a student in that class, also submitted a letter supporting Bodenhorn for the award.
“Dr. Bodenhorn has been one of the most effective teachers I’ve had while at Clemson. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to make subject matter interesting through anecdotes and describing other applications for certain concepts. He is a very deserving candidate of the Jonathan Hughes Award.”
Bodenhorn developed an interest in history growing up near Williamsburg, Va. He read a lot of history books but also visited many historic homes with his mother. “My mother had a real interest in historic homes and she took me along, which developed my appreciation for history and how people lived in the past.”
“Prohibition and The Great Depression are historical events that students have some knowledge of, and made for excellent Creative Inquiry topics that would engage students,” Bodenhorn said.
“There isn’t a lot of good information about the Prohibition period in South Carolina, but most students have a basic understanding of what it entailed,” Bodenhorn said. “Another factor that may have triggered the idea is how today, the prohibition of medical marijuana laws have been broken down somewhat and some of the same arguments for Prohibition enter that discussion. Subconsciously, it helped me decide Prohibition would be a good topic and students appeared enthusiastic about that choice.”
Bodenhorn said he appreciates hearing that students enjoy his classes and hopes they share his enthusiasm for the subject by the end of the semester.
“Many of us don’t feel we have that much of an impact on our students,” he said. “But hearing their kind words about the way you taught the classes, reassures me that the many hours preparing for each class is time well spent.”
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