A Waterville Boy—Historian and Author
Robert H. Ferrell, a 1939 graduate of Waterville High School came to live in this town when his father Ernest H. Ferrell, Sr., a WW I Veteran took a job with the Waterville Bank. The bank was located at the corner of Farnsworth and Third Street. In 1938 Robert and his brother Ernie, Jr were members of a Boy Scouts troop in Lakewood, Ohio before moving here. Robert got his Eagle Scout from Troop 67 in Lakewood, Ohio. Ernie Ferrell, Jr. became the Third Eagle Scout of Waterville Troop 101 on September 14, 1939 and graduated in 1941 from Waterville High School. Robert was a talented pianist and it has been said he played piano at the Waterville Methodist Church. Robert served in WW II and later as an intelligence analyst in the U.S Air Force during the Korean War. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Music Education at B.G.S.U. in 1946 and a Bachelor in history a year later. He probably went back and forth between Waterville and Bowling Green frequently, instilling in him the small town atmosphere of life in Waterville.
Robert went on to receive his PhD from Yale University in 1951. He began as a lecturer in history at Michigan State College (now University) in the fall of 1952. Robert was hired as an Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in the fall 1953, where he could teach his specialty, diplomatic history. He taught many years starting as Assistant Professor and then advancing to Distinguished Professor in History in 1974, retiring in 1988 with Emeritus status there. He taught American diplomatic history there. After his retirement he moved closer to his daughter in Chelsea, Michigan. He was a prolific author writing and editing 60 books. He authored 12 books on President Harry S. Truman and a best-selling collection of the president’s letters to his wife. Dr. Ferrell was the first scholar to examine the letters after Bess Truman died. The book is called “Dear Bess: The Letters From Harry to Bess Truman 1910-1959” published in 1983. He wrote a biography of George C. Marshall, the World War II general and 1959 published “American Diplomacy.” He wrote books about other presidents including Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. His students were required to read a book a week, then required to turn in a review of the book. He read all of the papers that were turned in. He was able to help many PhD students get their degrees. The Waterville school system most likely instilled and encouraged the love of books and history to him. What an honor to know that here was a Waterville student that made the most of his education. Robert passed away on August 8, 2018.
Robert’s father Ernest Ferrell Sr. remained in Waterville until 1978, took up photography in retirement and was part of the group that founded the Waterville Historical Society.