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Longtime Creighton University History Professor Welch Dies

Longtime Creighton University History Professor Welch Dies

Respected Creighton University history professor Ashton Wesley Welch died in his sleep on Saturday, Aug. 14. He was 68. He is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Helen Wanken.

He was born on June 23, 1942, in Barbados. He received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1968. He continued his education at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his master’s in history and a certificate in African Studies in 1971. He earned his doctorate in history from the University of Birmingham, England.

Welch began his career at Creighton in 1971 as an instructor of history and brought his passion for African culture and black history to Creighton in 1975, when he became the director of the Black Studies Program. He served as chairman of the department from 1985 to 1993. His teaching and research at Creighton focused on questions of ethnicity. His scholarly passion was exemplified by many awards and publications, including recognition from the National Association for Ethnic Studies for his contribution to the discipline of Ethnic Studies and his last publication, “Killing Brown Slowly: The Judicial Undermining of Brown v. Board of Education.”

He was inducted into the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu, in 1993, and received the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Student Award for excellence in teaching in 1992, the distinguished faculty award in 1996 and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for excellence in teaching in 1999.

“Ashton spent his life quietly serving students. His patience, optimism, and generosity of spirit helped guide so many – including myself – through Creighton and into productive lives,” said Melissa Kean, Creighton National Alumni Board president and a historian at Rice University.

While Welch was well-known for his scholarly work, he also donated much of his time serving on various University, national and community boards, including serving as moderator for the Honor Students Council and the African Student Association and serving on the harassment and discrimination committee.

“Ashton Welch was the heart and soul of the history department. He was a man who so embodied cura personalis (development of the “whole person”), that the phrase is simply too small to describe the largesse of his heart,” said Betsy Elliot-Meisel, chair of Creighton’s Department of History.“Ashton touched each of us in a unique way, yet all of us share memories of his generosity, kindness, patience and wisdom. He will be so greatly missed, and yet since each of us is all the richer for having known him, he will remain with us as colleague and friend forever.”

Close friend and colleague Bette Evans, a retired professor of political science, said, “Ashton was devoted to learning for its own sake, and took delight in acquiring and sharing knowledge, inspiring his students and colleagues to love learning. He was a gentleman—not only for his courtly manners, but because he was the epitome of a “gentle man.” Almost everyone uses the word “gentle” to describe Ashton’s character and the way he lived his life. He seemed always at harmony with himself and with the world—even with those things he most wanted to change. And Ashton was unfailingly kind– not only to his students and his colleagues, but to everyone he encountered.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 30 in St. John's Church.