Kenyon College Names Endowed Professorship for Peter Rutkoff ’64


Peter M. Rutkoff ’64 was honored last October by Kenyon College, where he has taught since 1971, with a celebration of the announcement of an endowed professorship in his name. “The Peter Rutkoff Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be held by a faculty member who follows Peter’s commitment to promoting diversity, inclusiveness and understanding American history from multiple viewpoints,” according to a statement from the college. “The position will serve as a touchstone for achievement and encourage all faculty to promote inclusiveness across campus.” In the 190 years since Kenyon was founded, this is only the ninth professorship named for and honoring a faculty member.

Rutkoff, who is in his 45th year of teaching with no plans to retire, is professor of American studies at Kenyon. He inaugurated the program’s interdisciplinary major in 2002. He’s also executive director of the Kenyon Academic Partnership (KAP), in which professors help high school teachers develop their own versions of Kenyon courses for their most talented students. He has published both scholarly works and fiction. For more about him, visit

Rutkoff has taught courses ranging from Baseball and American Culture, to the Vietnamese Experience, to The Sankofa Project, which centers on theories and practices of urban education and involves an extended class trip to a public high school in inner-city Cleveland. He has also taken his students to locations such as Pittsburgh and Charleston, S.C.

 “I don’t want to teach the history of non-white folks as if there is a drawer that needs to be pulled in and out and now that we’ve done that, we don’t have to keep going,” Rutkoff says. “I try to understand the larger social and cultural context of American diversity.” 

Rutkoff credits two of his St. Lawrence history professors, Rifaat Ali Abou-el-Haj and Robert Carlisle, with setting him on his career direction. “I felt like a fish out of water at St. Lawrence—a left-wing New York City Jew, a 1960s guy in a 1950s college—but that helped me understand myself,” he says. “I realized that different wasn’t bad. Carlisle was an amazingly powerful man who taught me to stand up for what I believed. He taught me how to be a good teacher. He’s why I became a historian. I wouldn’t have gone to graduate school (at the University of Pennsylvania) without his influence.

“Diversity is a complicated, ongoing struggle,” Rutkoff says. “It seems easy to become diverse, but in reality it’s hard to achieve. It takes constant work. St. Lawrence has much to be proud of. At liberal arts colleges, it’s possible to make a difference if you put your mind to it. Progress is incremental, but it dissipates if you slow down. Someone has to mind the store.”