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2023 Pilster Great Plains Lecture

Thursday, September 28, 2023 at 7:30pm Mountain Time

Chadron State College Student Center Ballroom

“What’s So Great About the Great Plains?”

The Great Plains is a region that is difficult to define and often overlooked and misunderstood. 

Historian Andrew Graybill traces one early effort to give the Great Plains its due. In his most important book, The Great Plains (1931), leading western historian Walter Prescott Webb (1888-1963) emphasized the significance of the environment as a historical actor in its own right. Yet the book is marred by considerable shortcomings, among them Webb’s wincing racism. In his talk highlighting the recent 2022 reissue of the book (University of Nebraska Press), Graybill explores the volume’s notable limitations while arguing for its enduring vitality.

Dr. Andrew Graybill, 2023 Pilster Lecturer

Professor and Director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas

Andrew Graybill is a professor of history and director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He is the author or editor of four books, including The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West (Norton/Liveright, 2013). He taught at the University of Nebraska from 2003-2011.





About the Pilster Great Plains Lecture

In 2006, the late Esther Pilster gave a gift of ranchland in northwest Nebraska near Whitney in Dawes County, to the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society.  The gift, which established an endowment with the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society, was a tribute to her late husband Raleigh, who grew up on the ranch, and his parents John and Grace Pilster. As a beloved teacher and school administrator for 44 years, Esther served 29 years as principal at Boyd Elementary School in Omaha. Esther wanted her gift to honor the courage and tenacity shown by Raleigh’s parents and others who lived on the Great Plains.  The Pilster Great Plains Lecture Series and other programs are funded by the Pilster endowment.