Our department honors the memory of Jing Wei (1963-2011). On December 23, 2011, the Department of History lost a colleague, a friend, and a wonderful wife and mother when Jing, our Information Technology Consultant, died in a tragic accident while on vacation with her family in Aruba. Jing and her husband, Yaochun Zhang, grew up in China’s Anhui province. They came to the United States in 1992. Their son Ben was born in 1995. Jing had a master’s degree in chemical engineering from N.C. A&T State University. She worked at the Wake Forest University Medical School before moving to the Reynolda camps. Jing helped faculty to use technology, maintained our webstie, filmed and photographed departmental events and more, always with a joyful smile. She was also an incredibly talented photographer, leaving a legacy of beautiful images. Her efficiency, kindness, and dedication shone through in all of her work. We feel privileged to have worked with and known her during her far too short life.
Our department honors the memory of Stephen Vella, native of Brooklyn, New York and Assistant Professor from 2006 to 2010. We will never forget his intellect, concerned and comforting gaze, and hearty laugh. He was 34 when he died in January 2010.
Stephen started his term at Wake under the most unfortunate circumstances, newly diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Yet he pursued the teacher-scholar ideal with courage and resolve.
Stephen received his AB from Princeton University, and his MA and Ph.D. from Yale University. His dissertation, “Gentlemanly Conquerors: The Domestication of the Indian Frontier and the Fashioning of Imperial British Identity, 1790-1850” (2006), was awarded Yale‟s distinguished John Addison Porter Dissertation Prize. An expert on the social and cultural history of eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury Great Britain and the British Empire in South Asia, Stephen brought an exciting array of new courses to the department, including two upper-level seminars “The British Empire” (HST 311) and “Rethinking British Cultural History, 1707-2007” (HST 390) and a First Year Seminar, “Visualizing Britain‟s Empire, c. 1600 to the present.” His gentle art of persuasion and mesmerizing intellect won the love, respect and admiration of his students. He also expanded the University‟s library collection in these areas, winning a Presidential Grant for the purchase of the British Online Database.
Stephen conducted research with sources in Bengali, French, Italian and Spanish as well as English. He asked how the loss of the thirteen American colonies and the building of a second empire in South Asia changed British identity. The central thrust of his analyses was to show how newspapers, particularly through their focus on imperial wars, served as the principal medium through which this altered sense of “British-ness” was constructed. While historians recognize the impact newspapers had on political, cultural, and social life in early nineteenth-century Britain, Stephen was the first to use them comprehensively, intelligently and fruitfully. He also aspired to touch and teach historians beyond his own field by venturing broader historical interpretations and attempting to capture the “proper form” of representing the past. He produced a number of fine articles and was in the process of completing his book manuscript while on leave in 2009-2010 before succumbing to his illness on January 30, 2010.
With funds from the College and individual contributions from colleagues in History and other departments of the college, the History Department has established the “Stephen Vella Memorial Fund” to commemorate his legacy. It will be given as a research grant to an exemplary student to visit archives to complete a senior thesis and/or honors thesis.