EKU department of history’s very own professor is now both well-loved and well-known after being honored on the Senate floor by Senator Mitch McConnell. Tom Appleton, Foundation Professor 2015, received this recognition by the majority leader the morning of October 4.
“The senator has always been kind and generous to me,” Appleton said. “When he learned that I would be retiring this year, he surprised me by talking about me and my career on the floor of the Senate. That was totally unexpected and a genuine thrill. To be included in the Congressional Record is an honor I will never forget.”
In his recognition, Senator McConnell congratulated Appleton on his retirement at the end of the academic year. McConnell called Appleton a “premier historian” for the state and noted what a legacy and impact Appleton has had on the next generation.
McConnell and Appleton began working together five years ago on a series of lectures that McConnell planned to give. The lectures were about distinguished Kentuckians who served in the U.S. Senate, Appleton said. Appleton helped with researching and drafting the lectures for the senator.
With Appleton’s help, Senator McConnell has delivered several of these lectures across the state, including coming to EKU in the spring of 2013 to speak about Kentucky’s Civil War-era senators.
For the first 20 years of his career, Appleton was the editor of publications for the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. During that time, he also taught night classes at both the University of Kentucky and EKU.
In the fall of 2000, Appleton moved from Frankfort to Richmond to become EKU’s history specialist. He has loved teaching students about history ever since, Appleton said.
“The last 17 years have passed quickly,” Appleton said. “I especially enjoy classroom teaching. It is fun to see a student come to appreciate that history is more than just names and dates. You have to emphasize the ‘story’ in history.”
Throughout his career Appleton has had many achievements, such as being named a 2015-17 EKU Foundation Professor, co-editing six books and his work on McConnell’s lectures, his biggest accomplishment is his teaching and mentoring of students, said his colleague, Christiane Taylor, chair of the history department.
“His greatest achievements are the students in whom he instilled not just a love for history but a belief that with hard work they could accomplish the goals they set for themselves,” Taylor said. “That’s his legacy, the students whose lives he has touched and shaped.”
Appleton has accomplished much and impacted many people throughout Kentucky, Taylor said. But after this recognition by McConnell, Taylor said, now many people outside of the Commonwealth can be conscious of “this well-loved, highly-regarded individual who has touched and influenced so many lives.”
Even though Appleton is finished teaching in the classroom at the end of the semester, he said he plans to stay very involved on campus, especially through his involvement in several committees.
“The Marines always say, ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’” Appleton said, “or as President Benson says, ‘Once a Colonel, always a Colonel.’”
CORRECTION: In the print version of this article a cutline from a previous issue was below the photo.