tags: Top Young Historians
Yanek Mieczkowski, 40
Teaching Position: Associate Professor of History, Dowling College.
Chairman, Dowling College History Department (May 2000-May 2003)
Education: Ph.D. Columbia University, 1995
Area of Research: Twentieth-century America, The American Presidency, US Presidential Elections
Major Publications: Mieczkowski is the author of Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, (University Press of Kentucky, 2005); The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections, (Routledge Press, 2001); and Instructor's Manual for America in Modern Times, by Alan Brinkley & Ellen Fitzpatrick. (McGraw-Hill, 1997).
Contributor to The American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1998); chapter on Gerald R. Ford for The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley & Davis Dyer (Houghton Mifflin); The History News Service and The History News Network.
Awards: Mieczkowski is the recipient of Released Time Grants, Dowling College Long-Range Planning and Development Committee Course Releases Awarded for Research/Writing (1997-present); Abilene Travel Grant, The Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation, 2005; Gerald R. Ford Foundation Research Grant, 1992, 2003; The Rockefeller Archive Center Research Grant, Rockefeller University, 1996; Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center Visiting Scholars Grant, The University of Oklahoma at Norman, 1995; Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, 1995.
Additional Info: Mieczkowski has also been a Reader for the Advanced Placement Exam in U.S. History, Educational Testing Service; Faculty Advisor, Dowling College chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society; Oral histories: the Dwight D. Eisenhower presidency; the Gerald R. Ford presidency; friends and family of Ernie Davis (first African American to win the Heisman Trophy); Television commentator for "Our Town," Long Island Cablevision "Our Town: Meet the Authors" on Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s (May 10, 2005) and The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections (Sept. 17, 2004); Consultant for McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall, Pennsylvania Historical Society; Writing Fellow, The American National Biography.
My Search for a Missing Ford Administration Member
I had been searching for him a long time. His name was Russell Freeburg, and he served as the first director of President Gerald Ford's "Whip Inflation Now (WIN)" program. Ford employed numerous economic weapons to combat the high inflation of the 1970s, including an attempt to rally citizens in a consumer crusade against rising prices. Yet almost as soon as Ford unveiled the WIN program, it faltered. Critics ridiculed it as feckless and trite, and within a few months Ford abandoned it, partly because a deep recession gripped the country, making an anti-inflation campaign the wrong economic medicine.
I was researching a book on Ford's presidency and came across documents at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library naming Russell Freeburg as the first WIN director. My research depended heavily on oral interviews with Ford administration members, and I had enjoyed considerable luck in locating them and recording their recollections. Yet the Ford Library had little information on Freeburg; he seemed to have vanished without a trace. I did a white pages search and located a person with the same name in Florida, and I wrote to him. Weeks passed with no response. Finally, one day a handwritten letter arrived, and inside I found words that seemed like magic: "I am the Russell Freeburg you're looking for." He explained that he was spending the summer at his cottage in Michigan, and he left a phone number.
I called immediately and told him that I was planning a trip to the Ford Library in Ann Arbor. Could I see him at that time? His cottage was a good five hours from Ann Arbor, near Lake Michigan, but he welcomed a visit. Not wishing to trouble him for directions, I told him that I could find his home on MapQuest. "You're not going to find this cottage on MapQuest," he predicted. On the telephone, I could hear someone laughing in the background, and he said, "You see--even my wife's laughing. MapQuest's not going to show this place." I had no idea why he had such little confidence in MapQuest, but I told him I'd try. As it turned out, MapQuest did indeed provide directions, and on a late August day, I drove out to Frankfurt, Michigan.
It was beautiful country, high on Michigan's lower peninsula. The cool air told me that I was far north, and even though it was still summer, I could see splotches of color marking the tree leaves. As I approached his home, carefully following MapQuest's directions, I began to see why Freeburg and his wife got such a kick out of the notion that MapQuest would show his cottage. It was in the middle of a forest! I seemed to leave civilization, traveling on a dirt road deep into the woods. But I spotted some cottages, and the directions told me I was there. I knocked on the door of what I believed was Freeburg's home, and a tall gentleman approached. Before I even got a chance to ask, "Are you Mr. Freeburg?", he looked down at me and said, "Well. My apologies to MapQuest."
Interviewing Freeburg that day, I gained valuable insight into WIN. He reiterated what President Ford had told me, that it was just one symbolic part of a larger, more substantive administration fight against inflation, and he spoke of his frustration that there hadn't been enough time to plan, staff, and fund WIN during its brief existence. I left that day feeling that I could more accurately tell the story of WIN's rise and fall.
I've stayed in touch with Russell over the years, and I was saddened to learn that his wife Sally died last fall. I'll always remember her cheerful laughter on the telephone, which marked the beginning of a journey that brought WIN, MapQuest, and history together in a quiet forest near Lake Michigan.
By Yanek Mieczkowski
About Yanek Mieczkowski
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