History professor named new department chair 

Sutton’s new book about WWII missionary spies to come out September



Matthew Sutton who was named chair of the history department discusses his plans as head of the department. Sutton says he plans to ensure the history department continues to be adaptable to change.

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Recipient of WSU’s Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of History was named chair of the history department.

Matthew Sutton, history professor, said he began his three-year term as department chair on Friday. He said Matthew Jockers, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, made the decision in Spring.

“I feel like my primary responsibility is to deal with the nuts and bolts of running the department so that the rest of the faculty doesn’t have to think about that stuff,” Sutton said. “They can focus on their students, their classes and their research.”

Sutton said he was excited about his new position, but still had reservations. At the end of his first day as department chair, he was notified at 4 p.m. that there was not a classroom available for a history course.

“We had 75 students enrolled in a class, but no classroom,” Sutton said. “We had to figure out what went wrong in the first place and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Sutton said he has worked at WSU for over 10 years and has been a member of several leadership groups including his position as director of graduate studies for the department of history.

“I plan on spending the rest of my career here,” he said.

Raymond Sun, associate history professor and former history department chair, said he has known Sutton since 2008. Sun said despite the differences between his and Sutton’s courses of study, they would often speak about their research and share resources.

“I have a great deal in confidence in how [Sutton] is going to perform,” Sun said. “He’s been very active and successful in representing WSU and WSU history as well.”

Sutton said he does not plan on making any major changes to the department, but instead wants to ensure the department continues to be adaptable to change.

He said the department serves over 230 history majors on campus as well as all freshman who are taking the required Roots of Contemporary Issues course.

Sutton said he will continue teaching a freshman history course during his term as department chair.

He said one of the challenges of his new appointment is balancing his class, research and department chair responsibilities. He said he is working on a history textbook for college freshmen throughout the nation.

In September, he will be publishing a book about missionaries who became spies in World War II.

Sun said Sutton has been very skilled at reaching larger audiences with his written works and lectures. He said Sutton has written scholarly pieces for newspapers and magazines.

“He’s also successfully bridged that gap between academic audiences and a more popular audience,” Sun said.

When Sun was department chair, he completed annual evaluations for the department faculty. He said Sutton is skilled at taking criticism without making it personal, which is a skill Sun said he had to learn during his term as department chair.

“I have every reason to believe he’s going to do a good job,” Sun said. “I just wish him every success.”