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Larry Skillin: History

Indiana, PA
Major: History
Minor: Religious Studies

Larry Skillin was born and raised in Indiana, PA. Like many high school students, his plans were to "go away" to college, and so he began his studies at one of the Big East Universities. Feeling that he just didn't "fit in," and drawn back to Indiana by family ties, he decided to give IUP and the Honors College a try. It may have been one of the best decisions Larry Skillin -- now studying at Oxford University as part of the Honors College abroad program -- has ever made.

Quite honestly, the Honors College has far surpassed any of my wildest dreams in terms of providing a fabulous education and once in a lifetime opportunities to be successful as an undergraduate. Although I didn't know enough about it to choose it at the time, the Honors College has been an incredibly wonderful experience for me since then. I view the Honors College as an incredible unfolding dream. It is so new that fresh ideas abound in terms of coursework, internship and study abroad opportunities, communal living, and any other thing that seems like it will help us succeed. It also greatly benefits from active financial support from above. That is especially true when compared to the other state system universities.

The comparison, Larry Skillin found, was surprising not only in what the Honors College offered, but also what he soon experienced in IUP's History Department.

I think the tight job market for history professors has really helped IUP. There are several very talented, young historians who have recently joined the department as active researchers and writers. They bring a lot of fresh insight to the fields that I have studied with them. Combine that with the wisdom, intelligence, and incredibly clear thinking of Dr. Cashdollar and you have a great department. The professors here also do a good job of making their majors write. You can’t walk away with a college degree based on bubble tests, or filling in the blanks. And I have had unprecedented access to the professors at IUP. In my brief time at a Big East School, I never could have imagined actually speaking with a professor. A graduate Teaching Assistant, sure -- but never the big wig. At IUP, I have had the chance to really meet professors who have helped shape my thinking as a historian and who know me well enough to tell me when I’m being stupid and congratulate me when I succeed. That’s really nice.

Mix that with the Honors College and you have a winning combination.

The Honors College is an incredibly personalized experience that drives you to succeed in your endeavors. It also matches your efforts. The harder you push to accomplish your goals, the more the Honors College offers experiences and challenges that will help you achieve your dreams. It also has wonderfully lofty goals. I feel comfortable thinking that through the Honors College I will make my first steps towards becoming the greatest early American historian of the next generation. Somebody has to do it, right? Seriously, thanks to this program, and those history professors, I have been to three different academic conferences in history. Each of them were great opportunities to read brand new papers on the cutting edge of early American historical research as well as being great ways to network with top level professors. To give one example, I met Princeton’s early American historian at a conference and he has since offered to meet with me at Princeton’s campus as I visit graduate schools when I return from Oxford.

Because of these experiences, Larry Skillin feels well grounded when it comes to thoughts about graduate school and a life career in teaching history.

I think I have a pretty good picture of what it means to be a professional historian today. Part of that has come through recognizing what types of books and articles are produced at these conferences and the types of research networks and friendships that are forged at these professional meetings. More important, however, has been my close relationship with several professors in the department who have taken many of their office hours to chat with me about the realities of being a history professor. I have considered graduate work in theology and law, but my dream job would be to have an endowed professorship in history at a major research university, preferably on the East Coast. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

After a summer in Edinburgh, Scotland as part of one Honors abroad program, and his current year of study at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, England, Larry Skillin is already planning a variety of further studies abroad.

I would like to study the transfer of colonial administration from French to British hands following the French and Indian War. I think all this is within my reach and beginning this year at Oxford I can work to make those dreams a reality.

Larry Skillin credits much of his self-confidence and readiness to take on the world of research and academics to the basic questions in the Honors College core curriculum.

Those questions were the kind that people spend entire scholarly careers trying to master only to learn that they are no closer to an answer when they retire than when they began their studies. Those are the really fun ones, and those that are ultimately important for us as we construct meaning in life. With a soft spot in my heart for theology, those are the types of questions that I love. Less important, perhaps, than the questions themselves, because there are limitless variations of questions of deep significance, was the way in which we learned to approach the questions. Particularly important is the interdisciplinary approach and the focus on revising arguments through discussion and critique. Good stuff.

For Larry, one particular question remains with him now, and perhaps forever.

The meaning and existence of God is and always will be of ultimate importance for me. There are all sorts of tricky implications that go along with it. It is made much more fun by the fact that I love liberal theistic conceptions that really fly in the face of traditional evangelical Christian orthodoxy and pseudo-stylish mushy agnosticism at the same time. That way I am assured of being able to get into a good scrape with someone when I feel the need to fight.

Yet with all Larry Skillin's accomplishments and achievements at the Honors College and IUP, there's one that pleases him the most.

Finding a way to thrive while balancing the responsibilities of being a father, husband and student. I know that I have fallen short of expectations in each of those roles at various times and in various ways, but on the whole I give more than everything I have to make those roles work. I am incredibly busy, but my heart overflows with joy as I start each day. It’s good to be alive.

Ask Larry Skillin his best advice for a high school student looking to find the right program, major, college or university and he'll tell you to ask one more truly important question, a question he's answered again and again for himself at IUP and the Honors College.

Just ask yourself: Can this place make my dreams come true?


Larry’s Accomplishments

Academic Distinction/Awards

  • Board of Governor's Scholarship
  • Dean’s List

Study Abroad

  • Summer Honors program in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2000
  • Academic year at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University, 2000-01


  • Spanish
  • German
  • New Testament Greek