ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor

  • Ronald T. McCoy
  • Ronald T. McCoy

  • 2003 - Ronald T. McCoy

  • When professor of history Dr. Ron McCoy was asked to bring along some meaningful personal items for the official Roe R. Cross portait, he brought along a large painting of Che Guevara.

    Viva la revolucion. The revolution in studying all sides of the historical story, that is, from the struggles of the plains Indians to the contrarian writings of Howard Zinn.

    McCoy challenged his history students to think outside the box.

    “Teaching and learning are both passionate, eye-opening experiences,” he said. “If students leave my class with the same mindset they had on day one, I’ve failed. If their perceptions have in any way changed, we’ve both succeeded.”

    As one nominator added, “He painted his students a detailed and realistic portrait of the Native and settler populations of the Great Plains and Southwest. He has also helped them understand the relationship between history and memory, and the role the media play in creating historical narratives.”

    His depth of historical knowledge was bolstered by a family lineage with intimate ties to historical giants. This might have made him more inclined to look beyond the normal mainstream media or textbook viewpoints.

    McCoy’s father was Tim McCoy, best known as an American actor who portrayed a cowboy in films from 1925 to 1965. Tim McCoy, the son of an Irish Civil War soldier, was much more than that, though. He served in the United State Army during World War I and II, and was an expert in Indian sign language and customs.

    McCoy’s mother, his father’s second wife, was Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist who later became a Hollywood writer and gossip columnist. Though never fully substantiated, she was under scrutiny by the FBI for being a companion to Adolf Hitler and in a romantic relationship with John F. Kennedy while he served in the Navy.

    His father’s experiences formed a large part of McCoy’s interests in Indian culture and cowboy life of the American Frontier. He has written and presented extensively in this field. One of his proudest professional moments, he has written, was the publication of his first book, Tim McCoy Remembers the West, co-authored with his father.

    In 1978, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center presented the McCoys its “Wrangler Award for Excellence in Biography and Autobiography.”

    Dr. McCoy began teaching at Emporia State in 1989. He authored six books and was director of the ESU Center for the Great Plains Studies from 1992 to 2001. Gov Bill Graves named him to the State of Kansas Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commission in 2000.

    “Ron was a gregarious and well liked professor during his years here,” recalled ESU colleague Dr. Greg Schneider. “He was an expert on American Indian artwork and published many articles in a wide variety of publications including Arizona Highways and other popular venues.”