By Adam Cook
Professor W. Jeffrey Bolster has lectured on the high seas, written award-winning books, and now he is this year’s Lindberg Award Winner.
The office of the dean in Murkland Hall quickly filled up with professors, students and friends of Bolster as the reception came to an end and the speech began.
“Students say he is enthusiastic about his teachings,” began Alasdair Drysdale, professor of geography and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, as he gave a praising introduction to Bolster’s speech.
The Lindberg Award is a prestigious honor given out annually to a UNH faculty member within COLA who has accomplished something outstanding. The reward includes a $5,000 stipend as well as the chance to deliver a lecture as Bolster did with his lecture entitled Craft.
The Lindberg Award was created in 1986 and is dedicated to Gary Lindberg, an English professor at UNH who has since passed away.
“He set the bar really high,” joked Bolster as Drysdale finished the introduction to his speech.
Bolster is now a professor of history at UNH with focuses in maritime history and African American history, but he began his post-college career as a sailor. Bolster spent the first 10 years after college receiving hands-on education about the sea, and now is licensed by the Coast Guard as a master and mate.
Bolster periodically paused from his speech to reflect on stories that he has from sailing around the Atlantic. In one shared memory, Bolster saved a student he was teaching as she fell overboard at night.
During Bolster’s speech he described how he became interested in the ocean as a child, having the help of many books as well as a portrait of a clipper ship in his grandparents’ house, his interest thrived.
“I planned on becoming the next Jacques Cousteau,” Bolster joked.
Although Bolster was really interested in marine biology, he found his passion in the history courses he took at Trinity College where he received his Bachelor’s degree. He then went on to get his Master’s at Brown University and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.
“I’ve always wanted to produce crossover history,” Bolster said, “I want to get the attention of people in the field and outsiders.”
He has since written four books, each of which has received various awards.
“I learned writing history looks easy, but it’s pretty damn difficult.” Bolster said reflecting on his writing process.
As the speech concluded, and after long applause, questions were taken from audience members who were interested in all of the stories that Bolster shared, as well as his great achievements in writing and teaching.
“I’ve been lucky with these two careers,” Bolster said as he finshed his speech.
“He’s an incredible professor and lives by his word,” Lauren Percy, a current student of Bolster’s said. “I read his book ‘The Mortal Sea’ and wanted to learn how I could write something that sounds like a piece of art.”
Bolster is currently working on some new projects that may be turned into books at a later date.