William Issel receives 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award

Issel - Cummings
February 21, 2017

The ACHA 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award presented to Professor William Issel of San Francisco State University

For over 35 years, William Issel taught at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in the departments of history, humanities, and urban studies.  His scholarship has focused on the complex relationships that comprise urban life in the United States, especially the West Coast.

Beginning with “San Francisco, 1865-1932: Politics, Power and Urban Development (UC Berkeley Press, 1987), Issel, along with his SFSU colleague Robert Cherny, explored the interaction and interconnectedness of competing political entities in the Bay Area. In a review of this work, one reviewer noted that “By concentrating on political power, the authors reach conclusions that are exciting and controversial. Even if their conclusions must be regarded as tentative, Issel and Cherny have set the historiographical agenda for studying San Francisco politics. That is a major achievement.”

In “For Both Cross and Flag” (Temple University Press, 2010), Issel focused on city dynamics, including the impact and influence of religion on the urban landscape and political polity. As one reviewer noted that Issel’s work “provides a dramatic illustration of what can happen when parties to urban political rivalries, rooted in religious and ideological differences, seize the opportunity provided by a wartime national security emergency to demonize their enemy as ‘a potentially dangerous person’.” His is a cautionary tale for the Twentieth-first Century.

In “Church and State in the City” (Temple University Press, 2012), Bill Issel again returns to the city, exploring the role religion plays in marketplace of ideas.  “Church and State in the City”, while examining the Bay City’s twentieth-century political culture, accentuates the influence Catholic social teaching had on those who advocated for public policies that were based on a faith-based vision of the public interest.

In his research and writing, Bill Issel has demonstrated the importance of examining the role that religion has had on American political discourse.  Ours is not a secular society, devoid of religious influence. We have not yet reached that post-modern period. And while we profess a separation of Church and State in the United States, the role of the church, or any faith-based institution for that matter, cannot be divorced from our everyday lives, be there in the countryside or in the city.

It is for his scholarly and intellectual contribution to the faith-based discourse in academia that the AMERICAN CATHOLIC HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION is proud to present its 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award to Professor William Issel of San Francisco State University.