Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association

Robert Cottrell, PhD


Department of History

Emeritus professor Robert “Bob” Cottrell made a name for himself at Chico State as a prolific and well-regarded author, dedicated teacher, beloved colleague, and respected community member over the course of his 35-year campus career.

Cottrell joined the History Department in 1984. Before his 2019 retirement, he had published 24 books, 75 scholarly articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries, and more than 300 book reviews.

Cottrell’s scholarship is remarkable in its breadth. He has written books on the history of London, wildland firefighters, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, rock music, 1960s counterculture, and two books on baseball.

His biography of the iconoclastic journalist Isidor Feinstein “I.F.” Stone, titled Izzy, received rave reviews after its original publication, and it is now being reissued as a new edition 28 years later. Another of his important works, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union, was singled out by Choice and Booklist magazines as one of the best books of 2001.

Along with his prodigious publication output, Cottrell taught two dozen different history courses, and he was well known in the department for his willingness to step in and teach a class even if it was outside his main area of expertise. In addition, he was a long-serving member on multiple committees in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and he participated as a frequent presenter in summer institutes and other programs for teachers with the North State History-Social Science Project.

Early in his tenure, Cottrell coordinated the History Forum lecture series on campus and brought a number of the country’s leading historians to the University, including former history professor and presidential candidate George McGovern. The lecture series was one of the highlights of the academic year.

In the community, Cottrell was equally active, volunteering at homeless shelters and serving on the executive board of Congregation Beth Israel, including terms as president and vice president.

Cottrell received the CSU system-wide Wang Family Excellence Award—he is the first campus faculty member to be so honored and one of only two so far— as well as Chico State’s Outstanding Professor Award, a Fulbright Award as Distinguished Chair at Moscow State, and grants from the American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Of Cottrell, emeritus professor and Hall of Honor member Dale Steiner said: “Bob Cottrell personified the ideal professor—one who was an extraordinarily accomplished scholar, a dedicated and inspirational teacher, and a willing and effective contributor to the University and his community.”

Portrait of Robert Cottrell, PhD