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Published: Monday, 12/25/2000

Local prof aims to put some life into history

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
`You have to read what people actually said and thought and felt,' says Dr. Mary Stockwell, who tries in her book to make history interesting and accessible to those studying it. `You have to read what people actually said and thought and felt,' says Dr. Mary Stockwell, who tries in her book to make history interesting and accessible to those studying it.
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Dr. Mary Stockwell probably has written the first textbook on Ohio history that includes a dog named Natty.

“Hello, I am Natty,” smiles the cocker spaniel on page 140 of The Ohio Adventure, which is targeted for fourth-grade pupils.

The story that follows about a visit to the veterinary hospital at Ohio State University actually is part of a lesson on land-grant universities.

It's all part of the Lourdes College professor's philosophy that history must be interesting and accessible to those studying it, rather than a series of unconnected names and dates.

“You have to read what people actually said and thought and felt,” she said. “[Otherwise,] it becomes dead facts. You have to get them to see there's a real person behind that.”

Some school districts across the state began using the book this fall, but none yet in Toledo, according to Gibbs Smith, the publisher that produced the book.

The textbook - Dr. Stockwell's first - spans the state's history, from its geologic inception to its presidential heritage to the economy heading into the millennium, and it uses many first-hand accounts in the process.

Like her book, Dr. Stockwell's office is a historical potpourri. It is filled with nostalgia - maps, buttons for presidential candidates, portraits of historical figures like Shawnee chief Tecumseh, and even a Star Trek calendar - all evidence of her passion.

“I know so many stories through my ancestors,” she said. “I've just heard so many stories my whole life.”

Having grown up in South Toledo, Dr. Stockwell, 46, provided a definite northwest Ohio flavor to many parts of the book.

There are stories about Samuel M. “Golden Rule” Jones, a turn-of-the-century Toledo mayor known for his fairness and political independence, as well as Marcy Kaptur, who has represented the 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years.

Flipping through the book's pages, one can find photographs of the port of Toledo, the Glass Bowl at the University of Toledo, Tony Packo's restaurant in East Toledo, the Columbian House in Waterville, and Sidecut Metropark in Maumee.

The state in general is too often underappreciated, according to Dr. Stockwell.

“Ohio was not this boring place people think it is,” she said.

Dr. Stockwell received her bachelor's degree in history from the former Mary Manse College in Toledo and master's degrees in philosophy and history from the University of Toledo. Her doctorate in history is from UT.

After working for years at the Fermi II nuclear plant north of Monroe when teaching jobs were not immediately available, Dr. Stockwell began teaching at Lourdes in Sylvania in 1987. She now teaches American history as well as a few other history courses and constitutional law.

“I'm a doctor of dead guys,” she said.

Dr. Stockwell spent about a year working on the textbook, which was first available this fall. Writing in a style accessible to elementary school students was not problem, she said.

Susan Myers, textbook director for the Utah-based publisher, agreed.

“She is probably so far in the last couple of years the best textbook author I've had,” she said. “Usually, we have to rewrite everything an author does.”

“I don't write in the academic style,” Dr. Stockwell concluded. “History's a story and should be written with that in mind.”



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