August 13, 2007

Ragar joins Grant Association as textual editor

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Cheryl R. Ragar is the new textual editor for the Ulysses S. Grant Association at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

She comes aboard in time to help finish three forthcoming volumes in the association's collection, "The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant." The association is a leading research organization holding the world's largest collection of documents from and pertaining to the Civil War general and U.S. president.

Ragar comes to SIUC from the Interdisciplinary Studies Center at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., were she was a visiting instructor. Her career also includes stints as assistant instructor for the American Studies Program and continuing education for the University of Kansas as well as other professional employment experience outside the university setting.

A Paola, Kan., native, Ragar earned her bachelor's degree in journalism in 1991 and master's in American studies in 1999 from the University of Kansas at Lawrence. She's completing her doctorate in American Studies there.

"We're very fortunate to have secured her services," said John Y. Simon, executive director of the Grant Association. "She's well-regarded at the University of Kansas and Drury and already proven to be someone who is adept at matters of language and editorial matters generally."

Ragar was co-editor of the recently published book, "Montage of a Dream: The Art and Life of Langston Hughes," and her exhibition catalog, "Aaron Douglas: Influences and Impacts of the Early Years," is due out this year. She is the recipient of a number of honors and scholastic awards, including the University of Kansas Dissertation Award.

"I'm happy to be connected with a project such as the Ulysses S. Grant Association that's doing such important work in documenting the life of this pivotal figure in the life of America," Ragar said.

Research, editing and documents preparation are keeping Ragar busy as she helps with the newest Ulysses S. Grant Association volumes, soon to join the collection in the Morris Library system. The three forthcoming volumes, numbers 29-31, will complete the initial project to encapsulate the Grant material. But, Simon said there will be a supplement and likely an addition to the Grant memoirs. There's also talk of creating an online edition of the documents already compiled and there may be a compilation of some of the materials already gathered but not included in the main collection because it could be redundant or more minor in nature, Simon said. However, no definite plans are in place for what will follow Volumes 29-31.

The association's collection includes some original Grant documents, and while they are primarily photocopies, the collection's depth is unparalleled in the world, according to Simon. More than 200,000 documents illuminate the life of the Civil War General and 18th president of the United States.

" As a research collection, it's absolutely unique and unmatched, covering the entire life of Ulysses S. Grant," Simon said.

Ragar said that although she has an extensive background in historical research, with just weeks in her new position, she's already fascinated.

"It's amazing what a full, diverse kind of life Ulysses S. Grant had," Ragar said. "There's much more to him than people realize. After his presidency, Grant traveled the world as a diplomat for his country. He spoke in 1879 about the importance of the global connection and working with other countries. He talked about it long before such talk was in vogue. It really brings the world into context."