David Kyvig ’66

David died unexpectedly on June 22, 2015, from complications of diabetes. David was a Distinguished Research Professor of History at Northern Illinois University (DeKalb). He was a prominent and prolific scholar of 20th century U.S. history who wrote nearly a dozen books and numerous journal articles, several book chapters, and countless encyclopedia entries.

He came to Kalamazoo College from Muskegon, Michigan, and cited the lasting influence on his life and career of several key professors: Wen Chao Chen (who also served as his faculty advisor), John Peterson (whose specialty was African history), and Ivor Spencer (U.S. history). David spent his career service quarter working in the office of Michigan Senator Philip Hart during the middle of the debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He studied abroad in Muenster, Germany, and used that opportunity to study and listen to what Germans found noteworthy and intriguing about American history. His Senior Individualized Project (which focused on the U.S. Senate during the “100 Day Session” of President Franklin Roosevelt’s first term) immersed him into primary historical research, and he loved it.

After graduating with his B.A. in history (cum laude), David earned a Ph.D. in American history from Northwestern University. He spent a year in Washington, D.C., as an archivist in the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. He began his college teaching career in 1971 at the University of Akron. In 1999 he joined the faculty at Northern Illinois. He also taught as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tromso in Norway (1987-88) and was a resident fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The majority of David’s research and writing focused on the U.S. constitutional amendment process. His book Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1976-1995 earned the Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious book-publishing accolade for American history. More recently he published the highly regarded book The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture Since 1960.

David was the subject of a LuxEsto story (Spring 2002) in which he cited the fundamental importance of history, “how looking at the past can be useful in coming to terms with contemporary moments, particularly moments of crisis.” He attributed his appreciation for that insight to his experiences at Kalamazoo College. “K,” he said, “took a provincial kid from West Michigan and exposed him to the possibilities of life. Working in Washington, D.C., going abroad, being surrounded by so many bright people, new ideas, new ways of looking at things—and discovering that I could hold my own in that environment—instilled a confidence in me that I could handle new experiences.”

David is survived by his wife, Christine Worobec. David was instrumental in establishing at Kalamazoo College the Wen Chao Chen Endowed Professorship of East Asian Social Sciences. Christine has established an endowed scholarship at K to honor David. It is called the “Dr. David Kyvig ’66 Memorial Scholarship for the Study of History,” to which alumni, classmates and friends are invited to contribute.

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