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University Research Professor, University of Kentucky

John Thelin's new book is GOING TO COLLEGE IN THE SIXTIES published in November 2018 by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

His book , A HISTORY OF AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION is published by the Johns Hopkins University Press – with a new third edition available in April 2019. Its distinctive approach is to emphasize the history of colleges and universities — especially campus life — as part of American popular culture.

His teaching and research interests focus on the history of higher education and public policy. Dr. Thelin likes to bring historical writing and research to contemporary discussions about significant, enduring higher education issues.

In Spring 2004, Dr.Thelin was selected by the UK Alumni Society to receive one of its Great Teacher Awards. He received the University Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2006. In April 2007, the American Educational Research Association conferred on him the Exemplary Research Award for Division J: Postsecondary and Higher Education research. In November 2011, Dr. Thelin received the Outstanding Research Achievement Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).

John Thelin has received two major research grants from the Spencer Foundation: a history of intercollegiate athletics scandals that led to his book, Games Colleges Play, published by Johns Hopkins University Press; and, in 1999-2000, a historical study of how research universities developed in the South since 1890. In 1999-2000, Dr. Thelin served as President of ASHE. He is author of six books and also writes articles and book reviews, and he reviews manuscripts for such journals as The Review of Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, History of Education Quarterly, Academe, and Change. His chapters on higher education topics have been published in The Encyclopedia of American Social History, The Encyclopedia of Educational Research, and The Encyclopedia of Higher Education. In addition to writing for scholarly journals, he has had essays published in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in 2000 was guest columnist on higher education for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He has been a consultant to the National Science Foundation and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and since 2006, he has been a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s higher education working group in Washington, D.C. In 2009 he co-authored with Richard Trollinger, Vice President of Centre College and a Ph.D. alumnus of the EPE program, a study for the Aspen Institute, Time is of the Essence, dealing with reconsideration of perpetual endowment policies for philanthropic foundations. His project with A.S.T. Blackburn on the study of “Town and Gown Heritage of Kentucky’s Colleges and Universities” received a research grant from the Kentucky Humanities Council in 2004 and received a 2006 award from the Kentucky Historical Society. This has led to his creating a new undergraduate course, “Town and Gown,” dealing with colleges and communities. This has been approved for university-wide status as part of the General Education curriculum. His most recent research project is a book contract to write on rising college costs and the economics of higher education.


  • –present
    University Research Professor , University of Kentucky


Phi Beta Kappa (Alpha of Rhode Island, Brown University 1969)