Dr. Ron Petrin, a longtime member of the Department of History faculty, died the Wednesday before Thanksgiving after a long illness. He will be missed as a friend, colleague and mentor, and remembered for his many contributions to the Department.
Dr. Petrin was especially passionate about working with students, a characteristic from which all of his students benefitted. In the classroom his teaching demonstrated his incredible breadth of knowledge that inspired undergraduate and graduate students alike. His commitment to students excelled even more outside the classroom. He served on dozens and dozens of M.A. and Ph.D. committees, shepherded graduate students through the rigorous process of completing degrees, drove students to conferences throughout the southern plains to present their research and begin the process of becoming part of the profession, and was active in Phi Alpha Theta.
Many of his students remember fondly his – as one of his colleagues kiddingly called it – “holding court” at a local establishment. For those of us who joined Dr. Petrin for a beverage on a Friday night, those gatherings, where historiographical controversies and the problems of the day were thoroughly debated, felt like a French salon – the Okie surroundings notwithstanding. These meetings had the happy effect of building strong bonds of friendship among those involved, with Dr. Petrin serving as the lynchpin that connected generations of students to each other and OSU.
His mentorship continued after graduation. One of his former students, Shelly Lemons, commented that she often sought his advice on job changes, navigating administrative hassles, and whether to pursue certain opportunities. Be it for a triumph, setback, or moment of uncertainty, Dr. Petrin's counsel always served to make her "feel like I was doing the right things and on the right track, building my confidence that I could do whatever it was I needed to do. For that I am forever grateful."
He of course had many qualities and idiosyncrasies that can’t help but make one smile: his impish laugh, his refusal to drive on gravel roads (having been warned when he first moved to Oklahoma that when the pavement ends you best turn around), and his left hand tucked deftly in the back of his pants as he explained complicated ideas amid a cloud of chalk dust in front of the tiny blackboard in the conference room in Life Sciences West.
More than anything, though, he’ll be remembered for his generosity: with his intellectual gifts, with his patience, and with his time. For those of us fortunate enough to have spent time with Dr. Petrin as part of the History Department, we are much better – personally and professionally – for that experience.
In honor of Dr. Petrin, the History Department and former students have established the Dr. Ron Petrin Memorial Scholarship that will help current and future History students attend conferences and conduct research. It seemed the most fitting way to continue his legacy of helping students while connecting generations of students. To donate to this fund, please visit philanthropete.osugiving.com/project/24255.
Dr. Thomas F. Jorsch
Instructor of American Studies
Oklahoma State University
OSU Ph.D. in American History (2004)