CHC Advisory Board
The Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast
Director and Advisory Board


Judith W. Linsley

Director, Center for History and Culture

Judith W. Linsley has joined the Center for History and Culture as our new director! 

In addition to her work with the CHC, Linsley is a researcher at the McFaddin-Ward House Museum, where she formerly held the position of Curator of Interpretation and Education. She received a B.A. in Spanish and an M.A. in History from Lamar, and she has previously taught as an adjunct instructor for the History Department. Many of you may be familiar with Judy's scholarship. She has published extensively on the history of Beaumont and Southeast Texas, co-authoring Beaumont: A Chronicle of Promise; The McFaddin-Ward House; and the award-winning Giant Under the Hill: A History of the Spindletop Oil Discovery at Beaumont, Texas, in 1901. She has also published articles appearing in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and in the Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, as well as for the Local Writers Project for the Center for Regional Heritage Research at Stephen F. Austin University. Her historical interests include the African American experience, women, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Texas, and oral interviews.

Assistant Director

Dr. Brendan Gillis

Assistant Professor, Lamar University

Dr. Gillis received an AB from Harvard University, M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and Ph.D. from Indiana Univeristy. He teaches courses on early North America, Great Britain, and the British Empire. A cultural historian of law and government, he is working on a book project titled Cosmopolitan Parochialism: A Global History of the British Magistrate, 1690-1835, which highlights the role of local decisions in constructing broader systems of rule. The American Antiquarian Society awarded Dr. Gillis the Hench Post-Dissertation Fellowship to support his research and writing. He has also received funding from such institutions at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies.

Advisory Board

Dr. Sam Monroe - Honorary

Dr. Sam Monroe is known not only as an experienced and trusted leader in higher education, but also as someone who has worked to promote and preserve the music and arts of Southeast Texas. He earned his degree in Business Administration from Sam Houston State University and his master of education degree and an honorary doctor of laws degree from Lamar University. After serving on the Lamar University Board of Regents for 5 years, Monroe became president of Lamar State College-Port Arthur in 1974, where he became the longest-serving president of a higher education institution in the state. In 2004 he was named "Citizen of the Year" and the next year he was the first recipient of the Southeast Texas "Man of the Year" Award. He was also instrumental in founding the Museum of the Gulf Coast, which actively preserves the history of the region.

Dr. Terri Davis

Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Lamar University
Dr. Davis received her Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas in 1997. Her research is published in the Journal of Urban Studies Research, Comparative Sociology, SAGE Open, Law and Politics Book Review, Open Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of the History of European Ideas.  Dr. Davis is MPA Director and Pre-Law Advisor at Lamar, where she has also served as President of the Faculty Senate.  Her numerous awards include University Merit Award, Teaching Excellence Award, Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, American Political Science Association’s Outstanding Teacher, and the Jefferson County Bar Association’s Liberty Bell Award.

Penny Clark

Archivist for Lamar University and Special Collections.
Penny Clark served on the Spindletop 2001 Commission and co-edited, with Evelyn M. Lord, its commemorative book, On the Road to the Big Day and Beyond.  She has given numerous scholarly presentations, including “Pursuing Petroleum Riches: Lamar University Special Collection” at the West Texas Historical Association meeting in April 2015, and “Glory Days: The Second Spindletop and its Architecture” at the Gulf South History and Humanities Conference, October 2014.

Troy Gray

Director of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University
Prior to his appointment with Lamar University, Gray was affiliated with the Bell County Museum, the Mayburn Museum, the Waco Mammoth site, and the Dr. Pepper Museum.  He also worked 11 years as a teacher of native and conversational English in South Korea.  Gray received his undergraduate degree from Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee, II and his M.A. in museum studies from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Dennis Kiel

Director of the Dishman Art Museum at Lamar University
Before joining the Dishman, Kiel was Chief Curator at The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film in Charlotte, N.C.  Prior to his appointment at The Light Factory, Kiel served as Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Cincinnati Art Museum for 24 years.  He also taught the history of photography at Northern Kentucky University at Highland Heights.  Kiel received a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Ohio University and M.A. in Art History from the University of Cincinnati.

Donna Meeks

Professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Lamar University
Professor Meeks earned her M.F.A. in Art at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and her M.A. in Teaching in Art and her B.A. with honors in Art from the University of Louisville.  Since 1981, Meeks’ work has been exhibited in the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (California), the Alternative Museum (New York), and the Montgomery Armory Art Center (Florida).  Meeks has works included in the permanent collections of the Fundación Torre Pujales (Corme, La Coruña, Galicia, Spain) and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas.

Dr. Jim Sanderson

Chair of the English and Modern Language Department for Lamar University
Dr. Sanderson has published three collections of short stories:  Semi-Private Rooms,1994 (1992 Kenneth Patton Prize); Faded Love, 2010 (Texas Institute of Letters’ 2010 Jesse Jones award nominee), and Trashy Behavior, 2013.  He has published seven novels, including, El Camino del Rio (1997 Frank Waters Award) and Safe Delivery (2000 Violet Crown Award finalist).  He has one forthcoming book, La Mordida (2017).  Dr. Sanderson has also published an essay collection, A West Texas Soapbox (1998).  His short story, “Bankers” won the Texas Institute of  Letters’ Kay Cattarulla Award in 2012.  His publications include about 80 short stories, essays, and articles.

Dr. Jim Westgate

University Professor of Earth & Space Sciences at Lamar University
Dr. Westgate earned his Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of Texas-Austin (1988), a M.S. in Biology from Southwest Missouri State University (1983), a M.S. in Geology from the University of Nebraska (1978), and a B.S. in Geology from the College of William & Mary (1975). Westgate has served as Director of the Teaching Environmental Science Institute for more than 20 years and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Big Thicket Association.  He has more than 100 scientific publications, mostly on paleontological studies, and has received more than $1.5 million in research grants and science education outreach funds.

Dr. Stuart A. Wright

Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminal Justice at Lamar University
Dr. Wright is a former NIMH Research Fellow (Yale) and Rockefeller Foundation Scholar (Italy). He has authored over fifty publications in scholarly books and journals. Dr. Wright is known internationally for his research on religious and political movements, conflict and violence. He has published six books, including Storming Zion: Governments Raids on Religious Communities with Susan J. Palmer (2015), Saints under Siege: The Texas State Raid on the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints with James T. Richardson (2011), Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing (2007), and Armageddon in Waco (1995).

Ellen Rienstra

Ellen Walker Rienstra is the co-author of several histories and historical articles, including The Long Shadow: The Lutcher-Stark Lumber Dynasty; Giant Under the Hill: A History of the Spindletop Oil Discovery at Beaumont, Texas, in 1901; A Pride of Kin, and six articles for the new edition of The Handbook of Texas.  She served as a consultant for the episode on Spindletop in “The Story of US,” the 2010 American History series for the History Channel. Rienstra currently does contract research and writing for the Nelda C. and H. J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in Orange.  She is a past president of the Lamar University Alumni Advisory Board and is also a member of the Lamar University Foundation and the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum Advisory Board.

Ryan Smith

Executive Director of the Texas Energy Museum
Prior to coming to Beaumont, Ryan served as the Director of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas and as the Director of the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos. He was appointed by Governor George Bush to the Spindletop Centennial Celebration Committee in 2001. Ryan received his M.A. in American history from the University of Texas at Austin and his B.A. in American Studies from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.  He currently serves as a surveyor for the Museum Assessment Program and for the Accreditation Program of the American Alliance of Museums.