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Whitworth Professor of History Dale Soden Receives Washington State Historical Society’s Highest Award

September 14, 2020
Whitworth Professor of History Dale Soden, Ph.D., has been awarded the Robert Gray Medal by the Washington State Historical Society. This is the society’s highest honor and recognizes distinguished and long-term contributions to the study and teaching of Pacific Northwest history.

In selecting Soden for this award, a committee of historians stated, “Dr. Soden’s research and frequent publications have focused on the ways the PNW has been significantly influenced politically and socially by individuals who were highly motivated by religious convictions, including examinations of the role that African American pastors and churches played in the civil rights struggles on the west coast.”

The group went on to commend Soden’s innovative teaching style, which includes sharing his love of folk-protest songs from the 1960s with his students.

Soden began teaching at Whitworth in 1985. He also holds the title of campus historian. His classes have focused on American intellectual history, American religious history and the Pacific Northwest. He has taught a variety of courses, including American Popular Culture, Great Trials in American History, and the History of the War in Vietnam.

Soden shared his interest in that war in 2019 with 10 of his Jan Term students and a Whitworth alumnus and Vietnam veteran, Tim Lickness ’73. Soden arranged a meeting between Lickness and one of the Vietnamese soldiers he may have fought against and watched as the two men embraced. Soden’s students described the study program as “life-changing” and said it was “a lesson they’d never get from reading a book.”

In 1990, Soden received the Whitworth Sears Award for Creative Teaching and Campus Leadership. He has also been named a “Most Influential Professor” by Whitworth’s senior class.

“After a decade of working beside Dale in the history department, I’m not surprised that he has been awarded the Washington State Historical Society’s highest honor; he is not only a prolific and respected scholar, but he is among the most beloved professors at Whitworth,” says Professor Anthony Clark, Ph.D., chair of the Whitworth History Department. “Dale’s publications and advocacy for racial equality and justice are merits that make him worthy of this award.”

Soden has had a long-standing interest in the integration of faith and learning and has directed Whitworth’s Weyerhaeuser Center for Christian Faith & Learning since its inception in 1998.

His writings have focused on topics related to religious influence on public life in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to numerous scholarly articles, he has published several books including Outsiders in a Promised Land: Religious Activists in Pacific Northwest History by Oregon State University Press, The Reverend Mark Matthews:  Activist in the Progressive Era by the University of Washington Press and An Enduring Venture of Mind and Heart: An Illustrated History of Whitworth University.

“For over two decades the Whitworth community of students and faculty has benefited from Dr. Soden’s stewardship of the Weyerhaeuser Center; however, this award makes clear that Dale’s influence extends well beyond our campus borders,” says Noelle Wiersma, dean of the Whitworth College of Arts & Sciences. “Dr. Soden is clearly a first-rate historian as evidenced by his impressive list of publications, but his generosity, wisdom and kindness are on full display when he steps into the role of public intellectual. Whitworth may have been Dr. Soden’s institutional home, but as his record of service to both his academic discipline and communities in the Pacific Northwest makes clear, Dr. Soden views public engagement as a central quality of his academic vocation.”

As a public historian, Soden was selected in 2008 by Turner Publishing to provide text and captions for Historic Photos of Washington State. In 2004, he served as advisor for an oral history documentary on the Civilian Conservation Corps in Spokane, and in the same year, he served as executive consultant for the documentary film In Time of War: The Japanese American Experience of WWII. He was the driving force behind the establishment of a special collection for Protestant materials in the Pacific Northwest at the Whitworth University Library.

The society will post a profile on Soden on its Facebook page later this month and will also include more about him on its History Awardee Hall of Achievement webpage. A link to that page will be posted on the society’s homepage at

About Whitworth University:

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students, offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Trisha Coder, media relations manager, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or