Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce

Westfield State University to host “History of the Westfield Normal School”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2019
CONTACT: Troy Watkins,, 413.572.5523

“Westfield Wednesdays” lecture series commemorates the City’s 350th anniversary

Westfield – Westfield State University will host a Westfield Wednesdays 350th Anniversary Historical Lecture Series event titled “History of the Westfield Normal School,” on Dever Stage in Parenzo Hall on March 6 at 6:30 p.m.

The event will be presented by panelists L. Mara Dodge, Ph.D.; Walter Fogg, and Beth Ann Rothermel, Ph.D. Following the event, a photography exhibit will be on display in the Arno Maris Gallery, on the second floor of Ely Campus Center. Desserts and a raffle will be available at the exhibit.

Dr. Dodge is a professor and department chair of history at Westfield State, and editor of the Historical Journal of Massachusetts, published by Westfield State since 1972. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has taught at Westfield State since 1999. Her areas of prior research include labor history, women’s history, legal/constitutional history, and the history of crime and punishment. She has also won an outstanding book award for her work, “Whores and Thieves of the Worst Kind”: Women, Crime, and Prisons, 18352000. She is editing another book, which is anticipated to be published in August.

Walter Fogg has delivered historical presentations to Westfield’s primary and secondary school students through the support of the Volunteers in Public Schools for 10 years. Additionally, he has presented to the Western Hampden County Historical Society and participated in the Westfield Athenaeum 150th Anniversary Speaker Commission from 2013 to 2016. He has also been a member of the Westfield Museum Inc. Board of Directors since 2014 and a volunteer advisor for the “Eyes of Westfield” project.   

Dr. Rothermel is a professor of English at Westfield State, teaching courses in writing pedagogy, writing, and women’s rhetoric. Her prior research has appeared in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Advances in the History of Rhetoric, the Historical Journal of Massachusetts, and The Archives of Composition: Writing and Rhetoric in High Schools and Normal School, which highlighted the history of women’s rhetorical education in America, particularly at normal schools. She is also a member of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.  

The lecture will center around three panelists presenting their individual research. Dr. Rothermel will present “Dig Where You Stand: Lessons from the WSU Archive,” highlighting her research into the Westfield State University archives. Fogg will present “Westfield’s Little-Known School of Observation,” a lecture exploring the history of the Wyben Schoolhouse from 1931 to 1939 while it served as an observation school for the Westfield State Teachers College. Dr. Dodge will present “Westfield State University: Evolution & Transformation, 1839–2010,” highlighting the history of the institution since its opening, tracking its growth while dispelling myths and misconceptions surrounding the University.

The photography exhibit will further explore the history of the Westfield Normal School as well as downtown buildings. The exhibit will highlight the Allen sisters and an additional presentation titled “Westfield State University Revisited: Archival Photographs and Artifacts.”

The event is free of charge and open to the public. For a list of the “Westfield Wednesdays” lecture series, visit

Founded in 1839 by Horace Mann, Westfield State University is an education leader committed to providing every generation of students with a learning experience built on its founding principle as the first public co-educational college in America to offer an education without barrier to race, gender or economic status. This spirit of innovative thinking and social responsibility is forged in a curriculum of liberal arts and professional studies that creates a vital community of engaged learners who become confident, capable individuals prepared for leadership and service to society.

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