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July 22, 2010

High School Alma Mater Honors CCNY Historian

Greg Downs 

Dr. Gregory Downs, Assistant Professor of History at City College and award-winning author.

When the University School of Nashville (USN) needed an alumnus on an “upward trajectory” to inspire its senior class this year, Dr. Gregory Downs, Assistant Professor of History at The City College of New York (CCNY) and award-winning author, got the nod.

Professor Downs, who graduated from USN, a K-12 school, in 1989, received the school’s Distinguished Alumnus award for his postgraduate success at its 2010 senior convocation May 19.   
“We sought someone active on an upward trajectory, busy in work of a demanding profession, with accolades already on a national stage,” said Vince Durnan, USN principal. “Greg Downs, a mentor still becoming a voice in his field, brought that story to our seniors.”

Professor Downs studies the political and cultural history of the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His research focus is the relationship between citizenship and subject-hood and the retention of feudal ideas within American popular politics.

At the convocation, Professor Downs read one of the stories from “Spit Baths,” his collection of short stories that won the Flannery O’Connor Award (2005) and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s James Michener/Copernicus Society of America Award (2003).

He then spoke to the seniors, their families and USN faculty about learning how to make sense of the costs of dreams.

“The way we learn to repay those costs is by committing to keeping alive those dreams so that the next generation of students can choose them too, if they want,” he told the guests.

After graduating from USN, Professor Downs earned a BA in history from Yale University, an MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa and a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

His second book, “Declarations of Dependence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908,” will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in January 2011.

Among his scholarly honors are the Josephine DeKarman Fellowship (2005-2006), a full-year Mellon Foundation Fellowship (2008-2009), and a John Hope Franklin research grant from Duke University (2003).