Brief History of OEH

​The Organization of Educational Historians (OEH) began in 1965 as the Midwest History of Education Society (MHES). Professor Kenneth Beasley, Northern Illinois University, and Professor Gerald Gutek, Loyola University, were co-founders. Beasley and Gutek met at the 1964 annual meeting of the Midwest Philosophy of Education Society where they discussed the need for a regional history of education society in the Midwest. They sent a letter to historians of education at Midwestern colleges and universities inviting them to meet at Loyola University Chicago to discuss the possibilities for establishing such a society. About ten historians of education met in the spring of 1965 at Loyola’s downtown campus. After hearing some presentations, the group, seated around a long table in a seminar room at Loyola’s Lewis Towers, 820 North Michigan Avenue, voted to convene a meeting of the Midwest History of Education Society on the last weekend of October, 1965.

Beginning that year, the Society met for the next three decades at Loyola University on the last weekend of October. Unusual for a professional organization of academics, MHES began and operated for many years without a mission statement, a constitution, by-laws, or dues. The Society was simply a meeting ground for historians of education. It had three officers who were elected for one year terms at the annual meeting: a president, vice-president, and secretary. Since there were no dues and no funds, there was no treasurer. The president presided over the annual meeting; the vice-president arranged the program; the secretary kept minutes and sent out the annual notice of the meeting. The annual meeting consisted of papers, an evening banquet address, and a short business meeting. The meetings were informal with little or none of the academic politics often found at other professional meetings. There were no official respondents to the papers but a great deal of lively conversation followed the presentations. 

Mailings and refreshments at the meetings were provided by Loyola University with the support of Dr. John Wozniak, the Dean of Education, and then by Gerald Gutek, the subsequent Dean of Education. Gutek organized book displays. There was a Friday evening banquet, either at Loyola University or in an area restaurant.

Among the notable banquet speakers was Professor George S. Counts, then a professor at Southern Illinois University. Among the individuals who faithfully attended the meetings and who might be called the Society’s original members were:  Harold Dunkel and Robert McCaul, University of Chicago; Carl Gross and Geoffrey Moore, Michigan State University; Robert Belding, University of Iowa; Edward Rutkowski, University of Northern Iowa; Gerald Gutek and Rosemary Donatelli, Loyola University; William Eaton, Southern Illinois University;  David Ripley, Northern Illinois University; and Donald Warren, University of Illinois-Chicago Circle. 

In 1973, Professor Edward Rutkowski offered to publish the papers presented at the meetings in an Annual Proceedings of the Midwest History of  Education Society. With the support of the University of Northern Iowa, Professor Rutkowski capably edited, printed, and distributed the Proceedings each year. 

By the late 1980s, the membership of the Society had grown from its early beginnings. The membership still included individuals from Midwestern institutions, but the group had begun to attract members from other regions of the country. The informality of the original Society—no constitution and no dues—was no longer adequate to maintain the organization, which was quickly moving from a regional group of individuals interested in the history of education to a professional organization of educational historians. While maintaining the Society’s openness, the changes that were made helped to ensure that it would continue to be a meeting ground for those interested in the history of education. 

As the organization continued to grow in the 1990s and early 2000s, members began to discuss the possibility of making several changes that would better represent the wide variety of scholars who attend the annual conference. The first such change took place in 2002 when the Annual Proceedings became a peer-reviewed journal, the American Educational History Journal. Then, in December 2008, the membership voted to replace the name Midwest History of Education Society (MHES) with the name Organization of Educational Historians (OEH).

Gerald Gutek
December 14, 2008