B.A., Denison University, 1958
Ph.D., Columbia University, 1967
Citation awarded June, 2011
After earning his Ph.D., Jay began teaching in California, at Stanford University and Pomona College. But his Midwest roots exerted a strong pull, and he returned to Ohio in 1967 to begin a 40-year career at Miami of Ohio as a professor of modern history. Two awards in particular reflect the broad respect with which he was viewed by students and the university community at large. In 1998, he received Miami University’s prestigious Harrison Medallion, presented to a member of the faculty or staff who has made outstanding national contributions to education. Five years later, he earned the 2003 Outstanding Teaching Award from Miami’s Associated Student Government.
Jay is a widely respected scholar for his interpretive works on Nazi and totalitarian propaganda. His published works include To Die For Germany: Heroes in the Nazi Pantheon; Hitler’s War Poets: Literature and Politics in the Third Reich; From Nuremberg to My Lai, and The Mythical World of Nazi War Propaganda 1939-1945. Each of his books frames both historical and moral confrontations and, ever the teacher, he pushes his readers to draw their own conclusions.
In 1969, he was an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Fellow—the German equivalent of the Fulbright Program in the United States. While in Germany to research and write To Die For Germany, he delivered lectures in Munich and at Heidelberg University on Ronald Reagan’s electoral landslide.
His reputation among his peers earned him the post of president of the German Studies Association, an international professional group with 1400 members worldwide. As president, his duties far exceeded planning for and presiding at the annual meeting. He hosted senior diplomats, writers and scholars from Germany and Austria, represented the association abroad, and delivered the presidential address at an international conference in Washington DC. In 1998, Jay was elected to Life Membership at Clare Hall, Cambridge University.
Denison reunions are one of Jay’s favorite things, so much so that he has been a reunion volunteer for 36 years! He also took great pleasure in representing Denison at the 1998 inauguration of the new Earlham College president.
We honor Jay Baird ’58 for helping to ensure our future leaders know to create what is to come, out of understanding, and honoring, the past.