Price gifts support Rackham Graduate School, Clements Library


The late Professor Jacob Price of Ann Arbor was passionate about the University of Michigan, his students and history.

A distinguished faculty member for 35 years, Price saw teaching history as his gift to students. Decades after retiring, he found another way to give students and scholars the gift of education by including the Rackham Graduate School and William L. Clements Library in his will, further cementing his legacy at U-M.

Jacob Price

His passion for higher education and those he taught fueled an endowed gift of nearly $2.9 million, establishing the Jacob M. Price Fellowships in the Rackham Graduate School, and providing a $50,000 gift to the Clements Library, expanding support for the Jacob M. Price Visiting Research Fellowships that were previously established in his honor.

In addition, Price gave the Clements Library, which houses primary sources on early American history, his collections of maps, books, engravings, scholarly journals and pictures, a donation valued at about $93,000.

His estate gift to Rackham creates fellowships for students doing dissertation research on British or West European history before 1850, or any period of Jewish history.

Kathleen Canning, the Sonya O. Rose Collegiate Professor of History, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and chair of the Department of History, said, “The history department is deeply honored to receive this generous gift from our late colleague, Jacob Price.”

“The Jacob M. Price Fellowships will support our efforts to recruit the very top young scholars to Michigan and will inspire and invigorate scholarly endeavors in the fields of study that were shaped by Professor Price’s own scholarship. We are so pleased to honor Professor Price’s legacy as a scholar and teacher through the inauguration of these fellowships,” she added.

Carol A. Fierke, the Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and dean of the Rackham Graduate School, commented on the impact of the gift.

“We are so grateful for Professor Price’s gift to support graduate education,” Fierke said. “At Rackham, supporting graduate students is our top priority, and gifts like this one enable us to recruit top talent and support their scholarly endeavors. Through this gift, Professor Price will have a lasting impact on graduate students and scholarship in the history department.”

Price retired in 1991 after serving on every major committee within the history department and serving twice as its chair. A lifelong educator, Price received a Fulbright scholarship, two Guggenheim Fellowships and the university’s 1981 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award. His research focused on trade between North America and Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and his publications were landmarks in the understanding of capital formation, economic development, and the role of trade during the Industrial Revolution.

He was also very involved at the Clements Library, serving on the Clements Library Associates Board of Governors from 1990-2015 and using various collections in his research. Rare family papers, documents on trade in the New World and the Clements’ extensive collection of maps are just some of the unique resources that were important to his work.

Since their inception in 1995, the Price Fellowships at the Clements Library have helped nearly 200 visiting historians travel to the Clements to conduct similar research. Among them was Elizabeth Fenn, a 1997 Price Fellow, who received a 2015 Pulitzer Prize in history for her book “Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People.”

Clements Library Director J. Kevin Graffagnino praised Price for his dedication to the library and to the teaching of history at U-M.

“Jack Price loved the Clements,” Graffagnino said. “His decades of involvement here enhanced our collections and services a great deal. This bequest will strengthen our capacity to bring young historians to the library to conduct primary-source research on all aspects of the history of the Americas from 1492 to 1900. The Clements and its constituents are most grateful to Professor Price for his generous support.”

During his tenure on the U-M faculty, Price held graduate students particularly close to his heart. Susan Thorne, now an associate professor of history at Duke University, remembers her former dissertation co-chair well.

“He was a brilliant historian,” Thorne said. “That was his greatest gift as a graduate adviser. He gave my work the most careful attention possible. He criticized in ways you want your closest friends to do. He made sure I had all the facts right, but left interpretation and argument to the side. He died as he lived — devoted to his scholarship and carrying it forward to the next generation.”


Leave a comment

Commenting is closed for this article. Please read our comment guidelines for more information.