Professor Erin-Marie Legacey, a mainstay in Texas Tech’s history department

The western corner of Holden Hall’s basement seems a dismal place. Identical office doors line a dead-end corridor, distinguished only by replaceable red and black plaques listing the names and degrees of professional occupants. At the end of the room is a name apparently marked by fate: Legacey.

A single window in the northwest corner of his office, near the door, drops the light on his desk and illuminates his work.

Erin-Marie Legacey is a mainstay of the Texas Tech History Department and Honors College. She teaches European and French history, including a course on death tourism in Europe.

Her list of accomplishments is long and although her colleague, Richard Verrone, describes her as very competent, her intellect is not her most defining trait.

“But what marks my experience with her over the years is just her constant kindness and professionalism,” said Verrone. “It never wavers. It’s so, so sweet; it’s something you can always count on, and it’s very meaningful, especially in academia.

Legacey, an associate professor, will become the director of graduate studies in the Department of History in the spring, replacing Emily Skidmore.

Verrone is the graduate program coordinator for the history department, and he works closely with the director, he said. As such, it’s important for anyone who fills the role to be proactive, responsive, and professional. Legacey was his first choice.

“She is a wonderful colleague, I really admire her,” he said.

Legacey made his home in Lubbock; she has two daughters with her husband, Benjamin Poole, who is also a graduate education coordinator and a professor in the history department. However, Lubbock was an unlikely place for Legacey.

It was two hours north of the Canada-US border, in Paris, Canada, that she grew up. Although she lives just 140 kilometers away, it wasn’t until she was 18 that she ventured across the southern border into the completely foreign United States.

Legacey teaches a senior seminar on the French Revolution at Texas Tech.

An educational foundation

Legacey’s childhood planted seeds of passion for education and history; her father ran a bookstore until the age of 12: Jamie’s Choice Books. She spent much of her childhood holed up in books, reading and drawing with her brother in the “huge” children’s room, although in retrospect she jokingly admitted that the size scale in maybe his memory was a little wrong.

“The bookstore was very educational for me when I was a kid, until I was 12,” she said.

Most of her summers and afternoons were spent surrounded by books, and as she and her brother played between the shelves, she dreamed of one day having her name on a book of her own creation.

“Reading and storytelling have always been an integral part of my life. Still is, she said, looking at the bookshelves that now line the walls of her office.

Legacey loves to read and her books show that she is well loved, she said.

“I was sort of around the books all the time, and I kind of took the books for granted, so I don’t take the utmost care of my books though,” she said, shrugging. and smiling affectionately at his collection.

Behind her desk are three framed degrees: a BA from the University of Guelph in Ontario, an MA from Queens University and a PhD from Northwestern University, where she met her future husband and best friend.

She has created her own path; As a first-generation student, navigating the world of college was confusing at times as it was in uncharted territory, she said. No one had set the framework for her.

She got a scholarship to the University of Guelph, which was only an hour from her home. She excelled, catching the attention of her French Revolutionary professor who helped her find the Queens University Masters program. Her advisor referred her to her doctoral director at Northwestern, and at age 25, Legacey moved to the United States.

“So my path was really like mentors were helping me and helping me guide me a bit because I really had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “I didn’t take any time off, I just kept going to school and never stopped.”

Forging friendships

Andreana Prichard first met Legacey when they started their doctoral programs at Northwestern. Prichard received his doctorate in African history and is now a professor at the University of Oklahoma.

“Sometimes you just meet people and you know you’ll be friends for a long time,” Prichard said. “And that’s the way it is with Erin.”

Despite studying history on different continents, the two leaned on each other for support during their difficult program. In fact, it was nice to be with someone with a different perspective, said Prichard.

The two helped each other and Prichard might not have passed a written French exam without her friend’s help, she said.

During Legacey’s sophomore year at Northwestern, she attended a Halloween party where she met an undergraduate student with the intention of moving to Paris after graduation, Legacey said.

As future professors of European history, the conversation ultimately turned to none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.

“I remember when I first met him he told me he really loved Napoleon,” she said. “And I was like, ‘uuggh! Why ?’ She laughed.

Plans changed, and Poole joined the doctoral program a few years after Legacey. They graduated and eventually found their way to Texas Tech, getting married and starting a family along the way.

While there are several married couples in the history department, Legacey and Poole are a “powerful couple,” Verrone said, and he really enjoys working with them.

Verrone first met Legacey during her interview and, like Prichard, she impressed him with his kindness. She was incredibly knowledgeable and comfortable with her presentation, he said.

“I just found her confident, articulate, relaxed, very kind,” he said. “And the room looked like that too, everyone was vibrating with that.”

Over the years they have worked side-by-side, Legacey’s unwavering kindness and professionalism have set her and her students apart, Verrone said. He saw his students flourish through his mentorship and said he enjoyed seeing his students succeed.

“It changed lives because of the decision to bring her in,” he said. “She is a great example of the best strength in our department. His energy, leadership and teaching are tremendous.

Legacey is good at getting her students to look at history from a different perspective, Verrone said.

Approaching a subject from another perspective and digging into the story is how Legacey approaches his research as well. The discovery of stories within popular culture draws her to areas where other academics are not as inclined to study, she said. History’s forgotten human elements, anecdotes, are what inspires her to dig deeper and uncover truths not only about the historical period they came from, but what these stories can teach us about nature as well. human.

Legacey’s first book, “Making Space for the Dead: Catacombs, Cemeteries, and the Reimagining of Paris” deals with the city of bones stretching beneath Paris and places for the dead. She was drawn to the topic because, although they were well known, no one had written about them in a professional manner, she said.

Her current area of ​​interest is a story she came across while researching for her book, she said. She works to uncover the truth of Sophie Blanchard’s legend in the larger context of daredevil women in the Napoleonic era.

Sophie Blanchard became the first female aeronaut after the death of her husband and she had to pay off her debts. She made a living shooting fireworks and doing tricks on a hot air balloon.

“And she ultimately died because it turns out that if you’re shooting fireworks from a hydrogen balloon, it’s not the safest choice,” Legacey said.

The hot air balloon was invented in France at the end of the 18th century, she said, as she proudly displayed a vignette of Montgolfier’s first balloon launch hanging next to her desk. The first project she tackles is to dissect the myth of the seductive Sophie Blanchard.

“There’s this really specific story that people tell over and over again,” the historian said. “And I came across this while reading this children’s book on her to my kids. And I’ve seen her appear over and over again in contemporary descriptions, but also in 20th century descriptions, that is, she’s that little woman, isn’t she, they describe her as a bird. She is so small. She is so afraid of everything, they say. A horse-drawn carriage frightens her, loud noises frighten her, she is excessively frail and fragile. She’s like, super feminine that way, which is ridiculous, right? But apparently, this story that was built (is), as soon as it takes off from the ground, it becomes courageous. And so, it’s such a great story that I can see why people are telling it, but I want to try to understand why? What is this story for? Why is this story useful or powerful in the 19th century. And so I try to think, in a way, to imagine, in the air as this space of regeneration and liberation.

She lets herself be guided by her research and the story of Sophie Blanchard, she says. She can look at the daredevil women phenomenon at the time, or take her subject more broadly.

Stay close

When Legacey isn’t teaching or researching Sophie Blanchard’s stunts, she is raising her daughters, knitting and, of course, reading.

Prichard and Legacey stayed close; Prichard came alongside Legacey after she gave birth, and Legacey planned to do the same for Prichard in 2020, but the pandemic halted travel.

Legacey started her family before Prichard, so Prichard was able to watch Legacey parent before becoming a mother herself.

“She’s an amazing mom and I’m in no way surprised, I’ve known her for so long,” said Prichard. “She does this really adorable thing with her kids at night when she puts them to bed where she stays with them for a while, and lets them ask her any questions they have and she will answer them. I think this is such a nice way to be a parent and let your kids get to know you and tell them about the world. It is such an intimate, encouraging and encouraging thing to do. I have always admired the way she brings up girls. She’s so thoughtful and patient – incredibly, incredibly patient. And that has always been part of his personality.

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