VIENNA - West Virginia's newest History Hero was honored Saturday with a reception at the Vienna Public Library sponsored by the Blennerhassett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Robert Cordell recently retired as a history instructor at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
He taught at WVU-P for 23 years, and four years for the military. Cordell is also retired from the U.S. Army and has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star.
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Robert Cordell, left, was honored Saturday as a West Virginia History Hero with a reception at the Vienna Public Library. He was nominated by the Blennerhassett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said Regent Dina Braniff, right.
"I tell people I did four years at Leavenworth," he said. "I was teaching graduate level history at the General Staff and Command College."
Cordell, an Oklahoma native, said his interest in history began when he was 12 or 13 years of age. From that early interest he said he wound up teaching and by speaking to various groups he said he is still, in a way, a teacher.
"I'm going to Oklahoma for a school reunion on Memorial Day weekend," he said. "On May 24, I'll do a presentation on Winston Churchill and the next day I will be talking about George Armstrong Cuter, since it's more appropriate for that audience.
"So when I go home, for the last three years in a row, I spoke there."
Cordell said he does not have a particular favorite historical subject.
"You have favorites for different reasons," he said. "There are people in history I like but I have no respect for them and the ones I respect, I don't like."
Cordell said he looks for more than facts and figures about subjects but tries to find the human side since not everything about someone is in any single book, but in different sources.
"I think I'm a natural scholar and I think a scholar has to have the curiosity to find out why," he said. "When I taught at WVU-P on day one I would say 'In high school you learned who, when and where, but in college we will talk about how and why, not who, when and where.'"
Cordell said he was not bogged down in what happened by memorizing names and dates, but why it happened and what was the result. In his years at WVU-P, Cordell taught American History along with geography and sociology. When he started at the college he taught business classes.
Cordell said his reaction to being named a History Hero was appreciation.
"It's nice to be appreciated," he said. "When somebody shows you appreciation it's nice."
Dina Braniff, regent of the Blennerhassett Chapter of DAR, said although Cordell has retired, students still come to the college asking if they can sign up for his classes.
Cordell has been giving a series of monthly presentations on the second Monday of the month at the Vienna Library on a number of topics. Last spring he did a series on the Civil War and this spring he will do a series on World War II.
Cordell was nominated for the award by the chapter for being "A One Man Speaker's Bureau," Braniff said, adding the award is given yearly by the West Virginia Archives and History Commission.
"Over the years he's done many programs for our chapter on history," Braniff said. "He's given presentations on George Washington, John Paul Jones and all of the founding fathers. One was on what happened to them after they signed the Declaration of Independence."
Braniff said the chapter wanted to recognize all he had done, not just for them but for the entire area.
"More importantly now with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, he is doing a series of programs at the Vienna Public Library," she said.