Press Release

Ohio Wesleyan to Award Honorary Degree to William J. Cronon, Ph.D.

August 28, 2017 – by Cole Hatcher

William J. Cronon, Ph.D., will receive an honorary degree and speak Sept. 14 at Ohio Wesleyan University. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Environmental Historian, Liberal Arts Advocate to Speak on Campus Sept. 14 

DELAWARE, Ohio – When Ohio Wesleyan University’s faculty began to envision a model liberal arts curriculum for the 21st century, they were inspired by William J. Cronon’s influential essay, “Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education.” 

In his essay, Cronon states: “More than anything else, being an educated person means being able to see connections that allow one to make sense of the world and act within it in creative ways.” 

So profound were Cronon’s words that they helped to guide creation of “The OWU Connection,” the program that now defines Ohio Wesleyan’s effort to educate students who “think big” (understand issues from multiple academic perspectives); “go global” (develop a broad and deep knowledge base through academic-related travel and on-campus diversity), and “get real experience” (link classroom learning with real-world practice through internships and other hands-on work experiences). 

In recognition of Cronon’s contributions to higher education, combined equally with his groundbreaking research in the field of environmental history, Ohio Wesleyan will award him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree – the university’s highest honor – when he speaks on campus in September. 

Cronon, Ph.D., the Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will receive his honorary degree and speak at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in Gray Chapel inside University Hall, 61 S. Sandusky St., Delaware. 

“William Cronon is a pioneer and vital voice in the field of environmental history, an accomplished educator, a respected researcher, a strong proponent of the liberal arts, and an engaged citizen,” said OWU President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “His commitment to higher education is inspirational and worthy of both recognition and emulation. Ohio Wesleyan is pleased to award him an honorary degree.” 

Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cronon served as a professor of history at Yale University. He also is a former Rhodes Scholar, Danforth Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and MacArthur Fellow, as well as a former president of both the American Historical Association and the American Society for Environmental History. 

Cronon is the author of multiple books, including “Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England,” winner of the Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians, and “Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West,” winner of both the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize, and a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in History. 

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees from Yale. Cronon also holds a Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.) degree from Oxford University in England. Learn more about him at www.williamcronon.net

Read Cronon’s “Only Connect: The Goals of a Liberal Education” essay at www.williamcronon.net/writing/only_connect.html and learn more about The OWU Connection at www.owu.edu/owuconnection


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers nearly 90 undergraduate majors and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through Ohio Wesleyan’s signature OWU Connection program, students integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the latest President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at www.owu.edu.