Faculty member has first book published

Rebecca Watts

Standing between two sides of a situation proves a good decision for Southern professor.

Dr. Steven Wagner, associate professor of history, has completed his first book: Eisenhower Republicanism: Pursuing the Middle Way.

Wagner originally began his research on President Eisenhower for his doctoral dissertation, and completed the first draft in the summer of 1999 at Purdue University.

After a “big year,” in which he attained a Ph.D, gained his current Southern position, got married and turned 30, he ended it by dusting off his work.

“After I felt a little more comfortable here, I pulled the research back out and basically rewrote the whole thing,” Wagner said.

He had to make some “interpretive and stylistic” adjustments to his work.

Then the accepted draft spent about a year in the printing process.

“It’s very exciting to see [the book] between the covers,” Wagner said.

Wagner first took interest in Eisenhower’s term in a post 1945 political history graduates’ class at Purdue, where he read a biography on the president.

“I was surprised at what I heard [about Eisenhower],” Wagner said. “In today’s ideology, he would be considered fairly liberal.”

This “liberal” Republican president intrigued Wagner, and made him wonder what changes had emerged in the Republican party since his presidency.

Eisenhower’s method of leadership was neither Republican nor Democratic, which is the reason why both extremes hated him.

A person standing in the middle of the two parties was considered “wishy-washy” or a “flip-flopper,” however, with Eisenhower, the “middle-way” was the conclusion of deep deliberation.

“It really struck me that here we had a popular Republican president who wins in a landslide in ’52, and an even bigger landslide in ’56, but yet his own party, especially those in congress, were not very supportive of his policies.”

This observation was Wagner’s insight to his book, and also turned his attention to Nelson Rockefeller, who is pictured on the cover of the book.

Rockefeller held positions in the Eisenhower administration and was also the governor of New York state.

“The reason I chose him was because a lot of my research led me to him,” Wagner said.

Currently Wagner has a number of projects in mind, with Rockefeller on the list.

His area of study involves post 1945, the Cold War, Vietnam and twentieth century U.S.

He enjoys teaching these areas and tries to convert his freshman students to history majors.

“It’s your only chance to reach them,” Wagner said. “I teach three sections of History 110, and I love it.”