MOUNT OLIVE – This fall marks the 20th year that History Professor Dr. Alan Lamm has taught at the University of Mount Olive (UMO.) During that time, Lamm has witnessed the growth of UMO, has taught countless classes, and has become a true leader for students in the Department of History and in the Honors Program.
Lamm, a native of Wilson County, first came to UMO as a student because of his involvement with the Free Will Baptist church. He received his associate’s degree from UMO, his bachelor’s degree from UNC Greensboro, his M.Div. and Th.M. from Duke University, and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. Lamm also served as a United States Army Reserve Chaplain (Captain). He began his career in education serving as a history instructor at a community college in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1997, he joined the faculty at Mount Olive College.
Lamm believes that his time in the military and the ministry helped to shape him into the professor that he is today: teaching him discipline and efficiency and helping prepare him to be an effective lecturer.
“Sometimes, I feel like I am preaching an evangelistic sermon trying to “win the hearts” of students, this time to the importance of history!” he joked.
Some might question “why history?” Lamm states that he’s always loved history, and he feels that what he does is his calling, rather than simply a job. He understands that learning history is an important part of understanding the present.
“History is drama — love, romance, hate — it has all the elements of life,” he said. He views history as a story, so he enjoys the work of historians who go beyond technicalities. “The best historians are true story tellers who make the past come alive. That’s why I like writers like Shelby Foote and James McPherson,” he said.
He hopes that he can help his students become appreciative of history, and he loves passing on his knowledge to students. “Converting those who grew up hating history to learn to like it – if not love it – is the most rewarding part of my job. When I accomplish that, I feel I have succeeded.”
Lamm’s favorite period of history is 1850 to 1900 in the United States. To answer “why,” he relies on the words of another American historian. “Henry Adams said, ‘In the essentials of life…the boy of 1854 stood nearer to the year one than the year 1900.’ That is so true. That period of history saw tremendous changes in government, technology, and more,” Lamm said.
To better understand history, Lamm enjoys examining old documents.
“It’s very powerful to me holding 150-year-old letters and getting into the thoughts of those from the past. It makes them come to life … you see how they thought and what they believed,” he said.
In addition to his position in the Department of History, Lamm is also Assistant Director of the Honors Program. “The Honors Program allows me to work with some of the best students at UMO,” he said. He believes that the Honors Program is important because it encourages students to be leaders and prepares them to take initiative. His favorite part of the Honors Program is taking students on the annual international trip. “Travel is my passion and I love sharing it with students,” he said.
Lamm believes that his greatest strength as a professor is his love for his subject and his success with research. For his teaching efforts, Lamm has earned numerous awards including the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011, The Dean’s Merit Award for Outstanding Contribution in Teaching in the School of Arts & Sciences for the 2007-2008 academic year, and the North Caroliniana Society’s Archie K. Davis Research Fellowship in 2002. In addition to these awards, Lamm also received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for a six-part film entitled “Post War Years, Cold War Fears: 1945-1960” for the Wayne County Public library in 2006 as well as an NEH grant to lead a six-part film series entitled “The Sixties” for the Wayne County Public Library in 2007.
Beyond the awards and accolades, the most rewarding part of Lamm’s impressive career at UMO is the relationships he has made along the way.
“Professors are distant figures at so many schools, but at UMO, we know our students and they know us on a much more personal level. That’s because we care about them and want them to succeed,” he said. “I also could not do my job without so many wonderful people helping me. UMO is truly a great place to work!”