Coffey receives five-year appointment to endowed chair in history at QU

Justin Coffey

QUINCY, Ill. – Justin Coffey, professor of history, recently received a five-year appointment to the Father Aaron Pembleton Endowed Chair in History at Quincy University. The appointment begins in the spring semester of 2022.

A donor will sometimes establish an “endowed chair” to allow a university to honor and retain highly accomplished professors. The Father Aaron Pembleton Endowed Chair in History was created in 1991 by a gift from the late Morton Sennett in honor of Pembleton’s 27 years of service as professor of history at QU. The Pembleton Chair seeks to strengthen teaching and learning in history and recognizes a faculty member of demonstrated excellence.

Coffey becomes the third historian at QU to be appointed to the Pembleton Chair. David Costigan, emeritus professor of history, and the late Father Kenneth Capalbo, OFM, a QU alumnus and 20-year member of the university’s history faculty, also were honored.

“The Sennett family is delighted to learn of the appointment of Professor Coffey as the Father Aaron Pembleton Endowed Chair of History,” said Michael Sennett, son of Morton Sennett. “My late father conceived of this endowed chair to honor Father Aaron, a brilliant and distinguished history professor for many years. He was a teacher and mentor to me and so many others during that time. He was a cherished friend of my father and Maria Pia Sennett, the love of his life, traveling with them to Italy and beyond.”

Hailing from Buffalo, N.Y., Pembleton entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., in 1953 and was ordained in 1962 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Teutopolis. He came to Quincy in the late 1960s and remained until he died in 1995. Father Pembleton taught history and French at Quincy College. He also headed the history program for six years and served on numerous college committees and the college judicial board.

In addition to his theology degree, Pembleton earned a bachelor’s degree from Quincy College and a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. He was awarded a diploma in French from L’Alliance Française in Paris in 1976. He also authored numerous scholarly works and translated a history of the Franciscan order from French to English.

Coffey has been a QU faculty member since 2007. He earned a doctoral degree in history from the University of Illinois-Chicago, specializing in United States history since 1877. He holds a master’s degree in history from the University of Wyoming and a bachelor’s degree in history from Fordham University. Coffey has authored numerous scholarly articles, as well as the book “Spiro Agnew and the Rise of the Republican Right.”

He is working on a biography of Richard M. Nixon, and he is a frequent political commentator for local news media in Quincy.

“Father Aaron was a true scholar who taught at Quincy University for many years. He made a profound impact on his students,” Coffey said. “I am grateful to be awarded this position. I want to thank my colleagues and everyone at Quincy University for their support.”

“For generations, Quincy University students have benefitted from the extraordinary talent and energy of our amazing faculty,” QU President Brian McGee said. “We are delighted to see Professor Coffey recognized for his many impressive accomplishments. … For generations, the history program at QU has changed the lives of students for the better. That legacy continues today.”

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