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UCI Lures Top History Professor : Education: Jack Greene leaves the East Coast to become the department's first "distinguished professor" just because he wanted a change, a chance to do something different.

April 28, 1990|KRISTINA LINDGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — After 25 years at Johns Hopkins University, renowned Early American history scholar Jack Greene decided it was time to do something "radically different."

He mentioned those restive feelings to a UC Irvine history professor and former graduate student in a chance telephone call last June. Now, after a 10-month courtship, the former Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at the Baltimore campus is coming to Irvine as UCI's first "distinguished professor" of history.

The lure, he said, was the youthful energy of UCI's already distinguished history faculty.

"They're a bunch of live wires," said the 58-year-old Greene, striding across the campus's central park Friday afternoon.

"I'd had a lot of other offers. But I finally decided to say no to all of them. They were all too similar--East Coast universities," said the bespectacled author of 27 books. "I just decided that unless I went to a radically different place, it wasn't worth it."

Greene becomes UCI's ninth "distinguished professor" and the latest in a string of prominent scholars wooed away from prestigious universities by a campus eager to attract world-class talent.

"The addition of Dr. Greene makes UCI's Early American history program one of the country's leading centers of scholarship in this field," UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason said Friday.

"Not only is he a respected scholar, he has made significant contributions to the development of international programs and to graduate student education, both of which are high priorities at UCI," Peltason said.

Added Michael Johnson, chairman of the history department and nationally respected expert on Southern colonial history: "What Jack brings to the department is outstanding research ability and outstanding teaching ability--he brings those things exponentially."

Greene, who has received Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, made his mark with works analyzing the political and social history of the original British colonies in America and the origins of the American Revolution.

"He is one of the two or three most important people in this area of history in the country," said David Rankin, the UCI history professor who happened to call Greene last June.

Complementing UCI's strength in Southern U.S. history, Greene also has a special interest in the colonial South and has a forthcoming book on slave plantation life in the South and the Caribbean. He is a member of the Royal Historical Society in Britain and the Society of American Historians.

Johnson said Greene's appointment will enable UCI to expand the number and caliber of graduate students as well as undergraduate history majors--all goals of the 24-professor department in the decade ahead. The department also hopes to enlarge its scope with about 20 more professors.

As a "distinguished professor," a university-sponsored equivalent of a privately funded professorship, Greene will earn a yearly salary of $108,000, about 23% more than the standard top salary. He also will receive a $20,000 annual stipend to support his research, a one-time housing allowance of $24,000, and a commitment from the university to expand the library's store of Colonial Era literature.

He has two grown children--a daughter who also is a historian and a son who works in the film industry.

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