FSU historian appointed to teach next generation of leaders at U.S. Air Force Academy

| Tue, 04/09/24
Kurt Piehler
Kurt Piehler, director of FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience and an associate professor in the Department of History. (Devin Bittner/FSU Arts & Sciences)

A Florida State University historian has been appointed to serve as a distinguished visiting professor in the humanities division at the United States Air Force Academy.

Kurt Piehler, director of FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience and an associate professor in the Department of History, will teach several courses to Air Force cadets during the fall and spring semesters of the 2024-2025 academic year.

“The idea of teaching cadets and working at the academy is quite exciting, especially to have a role in training the next generation of military leaders,” Piehler said. “Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed teaching students about the importance of understanding war in society and the issues centered around them, and I’m looking forward to contributing to the service in this way.”

The U.S. Air Force Academy, located just north of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a four-year public university and military service academy. The academy was established in 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and officially opened its doors in 1955. Each year, about 12,000 students apply to attend the academy while only about 1,400 are admitted, making the Air Force Academy the most competitive of the three U.S. military academies.

“Professor Piehler has spent a lifetime of scholarship considering the history of war and society,” said Jennifer Koslow, chair of the Department of History. “He knows the history of public policy, the history of leaders, the history of military engagements, and the history of warfighters in the 20th century — in other words, he can tell the story of our nation as a whole while personalizing the past and making it relevant to the future.”

Piehler, who earned a doctoral degree from Rutgers University, New Jersey, joined FSU’s history faculty in 2011 and became director of the institute that same year. He specializes in U.S. history of the 20th century, and previously held academic roles at Baruch College of the City University of New York and Rutgers, including as founding director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives of World War II.

Piehler has authored, co-edited, and edited more than two dozen books covering the lives and experiences of American servicemembers, the impact of global military operations on the American home front and culture and the enduring legacy of World War II etched into American civilian and military history.

His appointment to the Air Force Academy continues a tradition of FSU history faculty and graduates serving appointments at U.S. service academies and military institutions.

“Among the things I’m most looking forward to is working with two of my former students at the academy: Air Force Maj. John Prince, an assistant professor, earned his doctorate with me at FSU, and instructor of history Air Force Maj. Chris Reith earned his master’s degree while working with me,” Piehler said.

During his appointment, Piehler will help develop new courses, assist in cadet independent study projects, contribute to research on current Air Force issues, recommend additions and removals to archival holdings and more.

“I’ll be teaching the basic course in military history that all cadets are required to take, and class sizes are capped at around 18 students,” Piehler said. “Even in this introductory class, it will be mostly discussion-based. I’m slated to teach an upper-level class on World War I during the fall semester, and I’m hoping to teach a similar course on World War II in the spring.”

In addition to educating the next generation of Air Force leaders, Piehler is hoping to advance his own research through academy resources. As someone who has found himself immersed in history scholarship and military science since he was in elementary school, he’s hoping to reside on the Air Force base to take advantage of everything the academy offers to faculty members, especially its library archives.

“Having Professor Piehler elected to this position provides external validation of the excellence of our faculty, and I can think of no better scholar to work with Air Force cadets who will serve as our nation’s future leaders,” Koslow said. “It is a tremendous honor to be asked to be a distinguished visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.”

For more information about Piehler’s work and the Department of History, visit history.fsu.edu. To learn more about FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience, visit ww2.fsu.edu.