History department welcomes new professor

Dr. Lori Daggar replaces Dr. C. Dallett Hemphill, who passed away last year. She specializes in early American history.

Emily Jolly


There are several new faculty members at Ursinus this year, one of which is Dr. Lori Daggar in the history department. Daggar is filling the position of the late Dr. C. Dallett Hemphill, who passed away in the summer of 2015.

According to Dr. Ross Doughty, the chair of the history department, the search for  Hemphill’s replacement reached all over the country and beyond, even involving applicants from England and Canada.

While Doughty said “it was a daunting process to narrow down [the] very strong pool of applicants,” three finalists were brought to Ursinus in January and February of this year, “where they met faculty and students, taught a class, and presented their research.” Daggar was one of these three. She knew Hemphill from the McNeil Center for Early American History and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania, which is, she noted, apt to happen in such a small field as early American studies.

A recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Daggar received her doctorate in early American history. But her interest in history began all the way back in middle and high school, as it was a subject she not only excelled at but said she “found really fun and interesting.”

During her freshman year at Nazareth College in New York,  Daggar took a colonial America class her first semester. While she planned on being a music education major at the time, she was captivated by the course and the professor’s encouragement, as well as the chance to think “analytically and critically,” which caused her to switch majors.

Although Daggar had to make the tough choice between music and history, she had always planned to teach.“I combined my passion for teaching with my passion for history and here I am,” she said.

At first, she went into secondary education, where she worked in schools in Rochester, New York. But she soon realized that she missed the research she had conducted in college, and saw that she could “kind of have it all” with higher education. “I can do research, I can work with students, and remain a student for life,” said Daggar.

It was her research from college that led her down the track of early American history. In high school she actually hated studying the American revolution and early American history because its scholarship often focuses “on elites or a relatively non-diverse crowd,” especially the “founding fathers,” a focus which is difficult to relate to.

But during her college courses,  Daggar discovered that “there is a broad array of characters in early American history. I can relate to a lot of them and they are really compelling people.”

Along with this, Daggar said she realized that “history is about people” and as a historian she is able to learn about individual people’s stories, which is part of her passion.

During her junior year of college,  Daggar did an independent study in Native American history. She loved it so much that she continued to study it through graduate school and it is now a major part of her life and research. Her office on campus, Olin 308, is adorned with Native American artifacts.

This passion has continued to inform Daggar’s research, as she is currently planning her first manuscript, which she said “looks at the development and foundations of the American Empire situating the development in Indian country.”

She explained that the research will involve exploring the “economic development as well as reform and ideas of philanthropy in Indian land,” and “how the policies and ideas ultimately contribute to the rise of the American Empire.”

Daggar said she already feels “very welcomed and at home” on the Ursinus campus. Because she knew Hemphill from the McNeil Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Daggar felt as if she “already knew the sort of people who worked at Ursinus,” for “if Dallett worked here it must be an okay place.”

Therefore, she jumped at the chance to come to Ursinus although it was due to the unfortunate circumstance of  Hemphill’s passing.

In particular,  Daggar loves the community vibe, where she can converse with Dr. Hugh Clark about the overlap between East Asian Studies and Native American History during a morning break, which she says “is the best kind of workplace you can ask for.”

This year, Daggar can be found teaching American History: 1500-1877, during which she will be taking students on a broad ride through American history, as well as Philadelphia Story: The City as a Text, which will give students the chance to travel to Philadelphia and delve into the rich history the city offers.

Daggar is excited and happy to be here, and the school is lucky to have her. As Doughty said, “We were very pleased and fortunate that Dr. Daggar accepted our offer to join the Ursinus faculty.”