The Pennsylvania Historical Association announces that nominations are now open for the 2018 William A. Pencak Award for the best undergraduate research paper about Pennsylvania and/or mid-Atlantic history. The award, named for Bill Pencak (1951–2013), a former editor of Pennsylvania History and a prolific scholar and much-loved Penn State University history professor, honors the year’s best written undergraduate paper in history.

PHA initiated the prize in 2017. Frank Grumbine of Shippensburg University received the award for his entry: “Inundation of the Heartland: Tropical Storm Agnes and the Landscape of the Susquehanna Valley.” Frank accepted his award at the banquet of the annual meeting of PHA last October in Scranton. Here is an abstract:

Environmental perception and poor land use practices in the twentieth century are

argued to be the primary agents which led to widespread devastation of the

Susquehanna Valley following tropical storm Agnes in the summer of 1972. The

flooding from Agnes in Central Pennsylvania had been the catalyst to promote

changes including altering the role of all levels of government during subsequent

disasters as well as an increase in environmental mindfulness by promoting the proper

use of land across the nation. A renewed contribution to the analysis of tropical storm

Agnes in Pennsylvania will be employed through an environmental approach by

interpreting the dynamic relationship that citizens of the Susquehanna have with their

landscape. The various methods of flood control, environmental attitudes, and the

historic response from the federal government in the twentieth century are examined to

understand the impact of tropical storm Agnes at the local, regional, and national


His paper is available on line at the PHA Website.

The Pencak Award includes a certificate from the Pennsylvania Historical Association for high achievement in Pennsylvania and mid-Atlantic history, a cash award of $150, and consideration for publication on the Pennsylvania Historical Association’s website <> or its journal, Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies. Award recipients are encouraged to attend the Association’s annual conference in the fall to speak about their scholarship. Donations to the award fund can be made on the PHA’s website, or be sent to Dr. Karen Guenther, PHA Business Secretary / P.O. Box 45 / Mansfield, PA 16933.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Research papers (with endnotes and bibliography) on any subject in the history of Pennsylvania and/or the mid-Atlantic are welcome. Papers may be 20-30 pages in length (up to 10,000 words), formatted in double space (using a font such as Times New Roman, 12 point) and conforming to Chicago style. A committee of historians will evaluate the overall quality of the scholarship, including historiography, methodology, argumentation, and readability.
  • Papers must have been written by undergraduate students attending colleges or universities during the academic year 2017–2018.
  • For submission, papers must be nominated by the professors for whose courses students wrote them or professors who mentored the research or served as readers. Students may not nominate their own papers. Nominated papers should be based in archival sources and be truly outstanding in their contributions to historical knowledge.
  • Submission deadline, July 1, 2018. Nominated papers should be emailed (electronic form only) to Dr. Carla J. Mulford at Pennsylvania State University, The nomination packet should include a letter of nomination by the faculty member and a copy of the paper being nominated.