Contributed by Mary Corbin Sies, President of SACRPH in 1993-94
I am so sad to report the death of my fellow scholar, SACRPHer, colleague, and friend, David Schuyler (1950-2020). David died suddenly on July 24th, 2020, at Lancaster General Hospital. He was the Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of the Humanities and American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College; he taught there, sometimes chairing the American Studies department, for 41 years. David served as President of SACRPH during a period of precarity for the Society. He was awarded the Society’s prestigious Laurence C. Gerckens prize for extraordinary contributions to planning history education. He also served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Planning History for 12 years.
David was a prolific writer who lived for his scholarship in his later years, after his wife Marsha died of cancer in 2002. The New Urban Landscape: The Redefinition of City Form in Nineteenth-Century America (Johns Hopkins, 1986), Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing 1815-1852(Johns Hopkins, 1996), and A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race, and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940-1980 (Penn State University Press, 2002), as well as the Creating the North American Landscape Series for the Johns Hopkins University Press, for which he long served as a consulting editor, all influenced and helped me to think about my own scholarship. But he was, perhaps, better known for two books about his beloved Hudson River landscapes: Embattled River: The Hudson and Modern American Environmentalism (Cornell University Press, 2018), and Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909 (Cornell University Press, 2012). David was an expert on Frederick Law Olmsted and co-edited (with Charles Beveridge) four volumes of The Frederick Law Olmsted Papers. He also co-edited From Garden City to Green City: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard (Johns Hopkins, 2002) and he published more than thirty articles in scholarly journals and books. This past year, David has been hard at work on an update and revision of A City Transformed. He also published a handsome historical account of the development of the Franklin & Marshall campus.
David’s career was also impressive for his dedication to service on behalf of historical commissions, sites, and boards. He served on and chaired the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Board, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and the National Advisory Committee of Olana, the Frederick E. Church house and grounds, a New York State Historical Site. In 2018, David was awarded the Olana Partnership’s prestigious Frederick Church Award which honors “individuals who, through their vision, commitment and grasp of creative trends, make extraordinary contributions to American culture.” The award ceremony in New York City, attended by David’s mentor Kenneth Jackson (Columbia University) and the President of Franklin & Marshall College, was a highlight of his illustrious career. David was the recipient of several awards for teaching, book projects, and his general body of scholarship.
As “Professor Schuyler,” David was much beloved by his students. He adored the small liberal arts college atmosphere of Franklin & Marshall and living walking distance to campus. He sent a few students he mentored to graduate school and I was fortunate to work with two of them. David believed in getting students involved in the archive and centering classes on projects that engaged his students as generators of knowledge. He delighted in enlisting (and paying) students as researchers for his scholarly projects and encouraging them to develop online exhibitions as class projects.
David was famous for mentoring grad students and scholars just entering the profession. He met us at conferences, usually by listening to us give our first scholarly talks. He gave many of us a leg up into the profession, soliciting manuscripts for his book series, coaching us to finish and polish publications, putting us in touch with other experts or archival collections, and helping to warmly welcome us into scholarly conversations. I was one of his mentees; we met at an OAH conference in the mid-1980s. He, along with two other historians—Michael Ebner and Mark H. Rose—were the first professors outside of my university to pay attention to my work and I owe them a huge debt for encouraging my scholarship and modeling how to welcome and mentor new and emerging scholars. Over the years David and I developed a friendship, demonstrating that there could be genuine friendships in the competitive environments of academe! We were part of the group the SACRPHers that helped to shepherd the Society in its second phase of development, after SACRPH’s founder Larry Gerckens stepped down as Executive Secretary and following Genie Birch and Chris Silver’s presidencies. Several of us gathered in Castine, Maine for a few years for summer workshops focused on getting SACRPH business completed and planning the biennial meetings. The photograph (by Chris Stark) shows me, David, Domenic Vitiello, and Isabel and Chris Silver attending the Fourth of July parade in Castine during one of these SACRPH ‘rump parliaments’.
I am heartbroken that my dear friend is gone. Rest in peace, David, and thank you for helping me and so many other young professionals find our way in academe and making it a sometimes humane place to dwell.