Kent A. McConnell

Chair of the Department of History
Kent McConnell


M.Theological Studies Princeton Theological Seminary

B.A. Westminster College

M.Div. Yale University

Ph.D. University of Virginia


An avid fly-fisherman, Kent A. McConnell grew up on the lakes and rivers of northwestern Pennsylvania, where he gained his earliest appreciation of history. With his spouse, Lisa A. McConnell, he is the parent of three children, Zachary, Claire and Thaddeus, the latter being named after Thaddeus Stevens, the celebrated congressman from Pennsylvania during the Civil War era. The McConnell family enjoys outdoor activities such as kayaking, riding bikes, and spending time at their historic cottage in Hope, Maine. 

At the academy, Dr. McConnell primarily teaches the United States history sequence. Other courses he has taught are European history,The World in the 20th Century, and courses in Asian civilization. Mr. McConnell’s appreciation and enthusiasm for teaching history has been longstanding. In addition to his work with the regular session, Dr. McConnell helped to establish and co-directs the Charlie Hamm ’55 Leadership Program, the first endowed program in Exeter Summer. Prior to coming to Exeter, Dr. McConnell served four years as a visiting professor in the Department of History at Wake Forest University. He also was a visiting professor in the Departments of Religious Studies at Dartmouth College and Colby College. His publications and research interests include mid- to late-19th-century America, with an emphasis on violence and religion.

Dr. McConnell is a co-editor of the publication Conflicts in American History: A Documentary Encyclopedia (volume 5, “The Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and World War I: 1877-1920”)and the monograph A Time-Stained God: Religious Lives, Civil War Deaths and the Remaking of God in America. His other monograph contributions include “ ‘Betwixt and Between’ ”: Topographies of Memory and Identity in American Catholicism,” in Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (University of North Carolina Press). He has contributed both featured and secondary articles to such publications as The Journal of Religion and Society, Oxford University’s Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present, and the multi-volume Dictionary of American History (Charles Scribner’s Sons.) Dr. McConnell has held several regional research fellowships and national fellowships, with organizations such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Pew Charitable Trusts. In 2013 he was the Mellon Research Fellow at the Virginia Historical Society. 

Among his recent professional addresses, Dr. McConnell has delivered papers before the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History, the National Park Service’s academic symposium on John Brown, the International Conference on Arts and Humanities, the American Historical Association’s annual conference, the Nineteenth Century Studies Association’s annual conference, and the American Academy of Religion. He also co-chaired a table talk at the International Leadership Conference in 2012. 

As a history major, Dr. McConnell earned a bachelor's degree from Westminster College. He attended Yale University for a graduate degree in religion, focusing his studies on the history of religion in the United States. After earning his first master’s degree he attended Princeton Theological Seminary, where he studied with such notable historians as James McPherson and Jim Moorhead and wrote his master’s thesis on the religious life of the famous Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. He attended the University of Virginia for his doctorate, studying with Edward L. Ayers and Benjamin C. Ray. His dissertation examined the changing religious attitudes wrought by the carnage of the American Civil War.