LAWTON – Classics and letters professor Kevin Butterfield, who served as the first core faculty member in the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, has been named director of the institute. OU President David L. Boren made the announcement today at the October meeting of the OU Board of Regents.
“Dr. Butterfield has provided outstanding leadership as acting director of the Institute,” Boren said. “His teaching and scholarship are widely admired. He will make an outstanding director and will continue the important national role of the Institute.”
Butterfield, who joined the OU faculty in 2010, was named the associate director of the institute in 2013. That same year, he was the National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow at the New-York Historical Society, researching and writing a book on “Membership in America: Joining Together in a Post-Revolutionary Age.”
At OU, Butterfield teaches Introduction to Constitutional Studies, Origins of Rights in Early America, Interpreting the American Founding, Secret Societies in the American Culture and Law in American Life, 1776 to present.
His research focus has been on the history of the early American republic, and he has devoted most of time to exploring the law and practice of voluntary association in the 60 or so years following the American Revolution. He has explored groups ranging from moral reform societies to reading clubs to labor unions, ordinary men and women who gained experience in constitutional self-government, and explored their evolving understandings of the meanings and the legal consequences of voluntary membership.
The Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage was established in September 2009 for the study of the U.S. Constitution and its influences and history. An inter-disciplinary center for the study of American constitutionalism, the institute’s broad approach to the Constitution in all its aspects reflects its philosophical underpinnings, historical context, legal substance and contemporary relevance.
Housed in the Department of Classics and Letters, the institute is committed to ensuring that OU is a place where students can study the ancient roots of law, liberty, and self-governance, the development of liberal and republican thought in the modern world, the historical and ideological background of the American founding, the development of civil rights in American history, and the relevance of the Constitution to contemporary debates over justice and freedom.
The Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage four years ago launched the university’s successful Teach-In series on Constitutionalism, drawing an audience of thousands throughout the daylong, annual events. The Teach-In has been broadcast on OETA and posted on iTunesU, where it has been downloaded by tens of thousands of viewers from Belgium to Bulgaria and Kazakhstan to Korea.
Also through the institute “Freedom.ou.edu,” an OU website featuring a weekly series of short lectures on constitutional law and constitutional history, was created and introduced making civic education available to anyone any time. The program is designed to enhance civic education – on campus and beyond. Freedom.ou.edu was conceived as a way to share the resources of OU with the public.
Originally from Kansas City, Butterfield became interested in the study of history for the first time while a student at the University of Missouri. Following graduate study at the College of William and Mary, he opted to work in academic publishing rather than pursue a doctorate. For five years, he acquired, copyedited, proofread, and even indexed manuscripts, until he decided to pursue his doctorate degree. Butterfield completed his Ph.D. in history at Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied the law, politics and society of the post-Revolutionary United States.