Dr. Douglas Brinkley

Dr. Douglas Brinkley

NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Dr. Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian and professor of history at Rice University, will present “Discovering America from the Road” from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept.14, at Stephen F. Austin State University in the Baker Pattillo Student Center Theater.

Brinkley, whom CNN declared, “a man who knows more about the presidency than any human alive,” is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities at Rice, an American historian, best-selling author and sought-after commentator on U.S. presidential history. He has authored books on several presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Nancy Reagan personally selected Brinkley to edit President Reagan’s 2011 presidential diaries.

Brinkley’s presentation will highlight his experiences with one of the most renowned study away programs in the country’s history — the American Odyssey tour. He will talk about the benefits of seeing America to help better understand its complicated past and its complex present. Brinkley will address how transformational these experiences were and the adventures he had along the way.

While teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Brinkley spearheaded the American Odyssey course. He took students on a natural-gas-powered bus on numerous cross-country treks where they visited historic sites and met cultural icons, including Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Jimmy Carter, Morris Dees, Ken Kesey, John Kenneth Galbraith and William S. Burroughs. The class was written about in The New York Times and dozens of other newspapers. The Associated Press wrote, “If you can’t tour the United States yourself, the next best thing is to go along with Douglas Brinkley aboard ‘The Majic Bus.’”

“Stephen F. Austin State University is one of my favorite campuses to visit,” Brinkley said. “I’m excited to tell students and faculty about my American Odyssey tours. I’m glad to know that the spirit of ‘The Majic Bus’ is still alive and well in the age of Covid.” 

Dr. Sarah Straub, SFA assistant professor of education studies, was instrumental in bringing Brinkley to SFA. In what Straub considered a “shot in the dark” moment, she reached out to Brinkley after reading one of his books. The pair corresponded, and a friendship was formed. 

“While (Brinkley) is impressive on so many levels, I connected with his adventurous spirit and love of learning through the transformational experiences he creates for his students,” Straub said. “Those who attend this talk will leave ready to start their own adventures.” 

Brinkley’s presentation helps support Straub’s recruitment initiatives for her own study away program in spring 2022, which is funded in part by the President’s Innovation Award. Brinkley’s visit to SFA marks the second time he’s served as a guest speaker on the campus. He headlined the Archie McDonald Speaker Series in spring 2017.  

Six of Brinkley’s books have been selected as The New York Times’ “Notable Books of the Year,” and seven of his publications are The New York Times bestsellers. 

Brinkley also has been involved in the environmental conservation and historic preservation community. He has held board or leadership advisory roles in support of the American Museum of Natural History, Yellowstone Park Foundation, National Audubon Society and the Rockefeller-Roosevelt Conservation Roundtable. In 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honored him with its Annual Heritage Award.

A side passion of Brinkley’s is music, winning a Grammy Award in 2017 in the best jazz ensemble category as co-producer for “Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom,” and he was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Gonzo,” a collaboration with Johnny Depp.

Brinkley has been a frequent contributor to publications such as Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. He also serves on the board of trustees at Brevard College and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. 

He completed his bachelor’s degree at Ohio State University and received his doctoral degree in U.S. diplomatic history from Georgetown University in 1989. He then spent a year each at the U.S, Naval Academy and Princeton University teaching history. 

Before joining the Rice University faculty, Brinkley served as professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University in New Orleans. From 1994 until 2005, he was the Stephen E. Ambrose Professor of History and director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans.

The presentation is free and open to the public. Seating is limited to approximately 150. Face coverings are strongly encouraged but not mandatory.

For more information, contact Straub at straubsm@sfasu.edu.