A high honor for public historians and institutions alike, the Kelley Award recognizes those who are “making history relevant to individual lives of ordinary people outside of academia.” In a career spanning five decades and counting, Schulz has worked as a historian and a pioneer of the relatively new field of public history.
“I am both humbled and honored because I was lucky!” Schulz says, reflecting on the path that brought her from historian to educator and eventually director of one of the earliest public history programs. “By UofSC hiring me in 1985 and taking a chance on me, I got this wonderful opportunity to become the historian that I am,” she says.
Most recently Schulz has worked on the collection known as the Pinckney Papers, a major digital edition of the letters and documents of the Revolutionary-era Pinckney family. Schulz, however, says the award is for more than her work on a single project or even for her singular career: it also recognizes her efforts in building up the program at UofSC and the manifold contributions of her students on the field.
Chair of the History Department, Jessica Elfenbein, says, “NCPH's Kelley Award, effectively a lifetime achievement award, reflects not only on Dr. Schulz’s remarkable professional life but also on her more than three decades of contributions to UofSC’s public history program.”
I am both humbled and honored because I was lucky! By UofSC hiring me and taking a chance on me, I got this wonderful opportunity to become the historian that I am.
― Connie Schultz
Schulz attributes much of her success to being in the right place at the right time. She remembers answering a phone call one Christmas that brought her a gift like no other: a colleague asked if she would be available to teach a class in North Yorkshire, England. In the summer of 1990, Schulz started the program that came to be known as the England Field School.
For several weeks at a time, Schulz brought students from UofSC’s Public History program to a 1625 house called Kiplin Hall for a cross-cultural public history course with hands-on projects. With their skills and specialized knowledge of public history, the students archived and catalogued the priceless documents, paintings and wares of the ancient home.
The opportunity to teach abroad made Schulz realize the need for an international public history presence. Her international influence, with participation in historical projects and organizations around the world, is just one of many aspects of her career that NCPH considered for the award.
The Kelley Award comes at a time when Schulz is looking ahead at a new chapter in her storied life and career. She and a colleague, Professor Robert Weyeneth, have created a fund to ensure the work of public history students at UofSC continues to reach far and wide. Nearing the end of the Pickney Papers project, a post-retirement career in itself, Schulz is looking forward to fully retiring. She plans to move to the DC area and may volunteer with a few organizations she frequented over the years—the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.
Those who supported her nomination for the Kelley Award agree that Schulz’s passion and dedication to the field have made her long career truly worthy of recognition. As the NCPH cites in announcing her award, “Her students and colleagues note her generous spirit, deep experience, and track record of building processes and programs that have become models to emulate worldwide.”