Thursday, February 9, 2023

History professor fondly remembered by students, colleagues

August 31, 2001

An MSU history professor and avid skydiver, David Walker, died earlier this summer in a sky diving accident.

Peter Beattie, a fellow Latin American historian at MSU, said Walker was born in Louisiana but spent much of his life in Texas.

“David was a real character,” said Beattie, an associate history professor. “He was one of the few people you saw on campus wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.”

Beattie said Walker’s presence will be missed both as a researcher and in the classroom.

“Students that hung with him really appreciated him because he demanded high standards and they learned a lot,” he said. “I remember one student saying on the exterior David seemed like a grizzly bear, but inside he was a teddy bear.”

Walker, who was an economic historian but also worked with family and social history, has had work published on the history of Mexico. Beattie said he was nearly finished with a large study on Durango, a northern Mexico state where Walker often traveled.

Kevin Brown, a visiting integrative studies in arts & humanities instructor, worked with Walker while he was a graduate student.

“He was a brilliant scholar and an extraordinarily demanding teacher and mentor,” he said. “In his undergraduate courses, he was superbly prepared and up-to-date on current events in his specialty - Mexican history.”

Brown said Walker worked to bring Latin American history studies at MSU back to the level they were at in the 1960s and 70s.

History professors Friedrich Katz of the University of Chicago and John Hart of the University of Houston were familiar with Walker’s research and will be working with MSU to see that his study gets published under his name, Beattie said.

Katz and Hart will hold memorial lectures at MSU on Oct. 2 and 3.

Lewis Siegelbaum, chairperson of the History Department, said Walker’s death was a shock to the entire department.

“It is a tragedy we are all trying to get over,” he said, “He was a very productive member of the department, he encouraged junior members of the faculty, and he will be missed.”


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