Meet Richard Grimes, Ph.D., adjunct professor of history and political science.
Mr. Grimes recently published “The Western Delaware Indian Nation, 1730–1795: Warriors and Diplomats.” He teaches history courses in western civilization, history and culture of Native Americans and 18th and 20th century America.
What sparked your interest in American history?
I think my interest developed as a young boy. I was influenced and excited by movies with historical themes and books which fed my imagination. I was, of course, always fascinated by stories and histories about Native Americans.
Please provide a brief description of your book.
My book focuses on the Western Delaware Indian Nation—its origin and development, and its transformation through historical events (the Seven Years’ War and American Revolution) in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio during the 18th century.
What inspired you to write “The Western Delaware Indian Nation, 1730–1795: Warriors and Diplomats”?
I was interested in the Delaware Indian story as displaced people from Eastern Pennsylvania, their migration across the Allegheny Mountains and their emergence as a new people in the Ohio Country. To fully understand their historical experience, I had to reconstruct their social and political structure from the few records available. I tried my best to tell their story, from their perspective.
Tell us about the research process that went into writing this book.
The key process I used was hitting the university libraries in the region every chance available, looking for journal articles, books and seeking Interlibrary Loans. Much of my time was spent walking the stacks to see what was available at the Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh and the Carnegie libraries.
My research target was to reconstruct the transformation of the Delaware people through use of journal articles, diaries/memoirs, missionary records, and various treaty signings and peace talks in Western Pennsylvania. Much of my research required work in Native American oral traditions, treaty talks, ethnohistory and cultural anthropology.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a history major?
While studying history can be stimulating and exciting, it also is disciplined academia. You must be willing to read difficult records, evaluate sources and remain patient when your research is not taking you where you envisioned.
History is a tough field, but it also is tremendously satisfying when your research starts to blossom and takes you into other areas you never expected. You must love to read, think and struggle with ideas. It can be a very challenging but rewarding discipline.
How do you apply your professional experience to the classes you teach?
I have a varied professional background, but I did not enter college until the age of 35. I fell in love with academia and learning. After my extensive years as a student, I have spent my time teaching at West Virginia University (10 years), Carnegie Mellon University, Robert Morris University, Penn State University (Fayette Campus), the Community College of Allegheny County, and of course, La Roche College, where I have taught for five years. I also am currently teaching courses in early American and Native American history at Duquesne University.
Before academia I was mostly a blue-collar worker with many professional ups and downs. I knew I had the opportunity to enter school, but it was mostly my wife Ginny and my wonderful teachers who supported my efforts and challenged me to meet the demands of learning.
In the long process, I learned a great deal about myself and gained the confidence to become a teacher. In a sense, when I challenge my students to do better and support their efforts, I am honoring my teachers and their efforts with me.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
I work to inspire students and stimulate their learning. I love when they grasp the ideas presented in my classes and can advance their own informed perspective. They do not have to be history majors to critically think about the material I present. My efforts to inspire students are not always achieved. But that keeps me on my toes and, for me, makes teaching a constant challenge.