SMU Professor David J. Weber, one of the nation’s leading scholars on the U.S. Southwest and Mexico, died Aug. 20 of multiple myeloma. He was 69.
Weber joined SMU’s Department of History in 1976 and chaired the Department from 1979 to 1986. He also held the Robert and Nancy Dedman Chair in History in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Weber was the founding director of the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU, part of the Clements Department of History, both endowed by former Governor William P. Clements and his wife, Rita. The Clements Center for Southwest Studies is widely regarded as the leading institute for the study of the American West and the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
In leading the History Department’s new Ph.D. program and the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Weber was a mentor to numerous graduate students as well as post-doctoral fellows awarded stipends to conduct research and complete their manuscripts for publication through the Center. Hundreds of other scholars throughout the world followed Weber’s work and learned from his publications. He retired from teaching in spring 2010 but continued his research and writing.
As an internationally renowned scholar, David Weber “brought honor to SMU through his achievements,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “But he was also a dedicated teacher inspiring all levels of students, from undergraduates to post-doctoral fellows. He helped to shape the entire discipline of Southwest studies, leaving us with a greater understanding of our region’s history and cultures.”
“David Weber was not only one of the greatest historians of his generation, but also one of the most beloved,” said James K. Hopkins, long-time colleague and former chair of the Clements Department of History. “Colleagues, students, readers and friends around the world will mourn our loss today and for a long time to come. His life enlarged us all.”
Two governments gave Weber the highest honor they can bestow on foreigners: in 2002 King Juan Carlos of Spain named him to membership in the Real Orden de Isabel la Católica, the Spanish equivalent of a knighthood, and in 2005 Mexico named him to the Orden Mexicana del Águila Azteca (the Order of the Aztec Eagle). He was one of a few U.S. historians elected to the Mexican Academy of History.
Honors in the United States included his 2007 induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“David Weber was a gentle man and a brilliant scholar. He was a visionary whose academic interest in the history of the Southwest was equaled only by his love for the region,” said George Bayoud of Dallas, long-time and immediate past chair of the Advisory Panel for the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. “David built the Center into a thriving forum for research, dialogue and scholarship. Numerous books by emerging scholars have resulted from the time they spent under David’s guidance. Those of us who worked with David on the Advisory Panel were honored and fortunate to spend time with him and learn from him.”
Plans for a service in Dallas are pending.